Albama Arkansas Auburn Florida Georgia Kentucky LSU Mississippi State Missouri Ole-Miss USC Tennessee Texas A&M Vanderbilt

Writer Calls For Total “Regime Change” At Auburn

Yesterday, Auburn president Jay Gogue posted a note “to the Auburn Family about Auburn football” on the school’s official website.  In it he told fans that he’d heard their complaints.  He promised that a complete evaluation of the football program — in the midst of a 1-6 start — would be forthcoming at year’s end.  He asked fans to continue to support the Tigers.

He did not mention or provide any sort of vote of confidence for Gene Chizik, a man who’s job appears to be on the line just two years after winning a BCS championship.  Welcome to the sporting world of 2012.  Yesterday doesn’t count, only today matters.

Writer Kevin Scarbinsky of The Birmingham News took Gogue’s note as a sign that Chizik is in serious, serious trouble.  Further, he suggests a change of football’s head coach might not be all that Auburn needs or is going to see.

Read the rest of this entry »

Post Comments » No Comments

 

 

Long Wants An Employed Coach For Hogs, We’re Told It’s TCU’s Patterson

Arkansas AD Jeff Long confirmed on Bo Mattingly’s Arkansas radio show yesterday that he is interested in coaches who are currently employed:

 

“I think they’ll be a coach who is coaching and working in college or professional football.”

 

That would seem to rule out Butch Davis, the ex-North Carolina coach who’s been cleared — so far — of NCAA wrongdoing in the Tar Heels’ scandal that led to his ouster.  Davis is an Arkansas native.

Instead, it’s believed that the top man on Long’s list is TCU head coach Gary Patterson (photo at left).

Read the rest of this entry »

Post Comments » Comments (29)

 

 

Vandy Names Williams As Athletic Director

The days of Gordon Gee are officially over.  Rival fans can stop with the intramural jokes.  Vanderbilt has an athletic director.

David Williams — who we’ve referred to as VU’s “de facto” AD for several years — has finally been given that title officially.  His full job description is “vice chancellor for athletics and university affairs and athletics director.”  Good luck fitting that on a business card.

For all the jokes made when then-chancellor Gee nuked the AD position in 2003, the Commodores have actually been quite competitive without someone carrying that title.  In basketball and baseball they have been nationally ranked.  In football they’ve reached two bowl games and actually managed a winning season — a first since 1982.

Williams’ promotion comes as Vanderbilt tries to show (and make) a new commitment to athletics.  The school has given football coach James Franklin much of the support it promised when Williams plucked him from far off the radar two years ago.  And don’t think the early returns on Franklin didn’t play a role in Williams’ new title.

Current VU chancellor Nicholas S. Zeppos said via press release:

 

“By every measure, the game has changed for Vanderbilt athletics over the past nine years.  Our efforts to ensure that Vanderbilt athletes are students first have paid off on the playing field, in recruiting, in the classroom and across our campus.  This success is largely thanks to David Williams.”

 

Williams himself added:

 

“We are proud of what we have accomplished thus far, but we know that we are just at the beginning of what can and will be.  I am honored to lead some of the best coaches and staff in the nation as we support the outstanding efforts of our student athletes, while delivering a world-class fan experience at our athletic facilities.”

 

If for no other reason than PR purposes, this is a good move for Vanderbilt.  As noted, Gee’s decision to do away with the AD position didn’t seem to hurt the school’s actual athletic performance, but it did create a perception among many that Vandy did not take its sports seriously.  Now, VU coaches will no longer have to dance around recruits’ questions about joining an “intramural” program without an AD.  That negative recruiting arrow has been removed from the quiver of rival SEC coaches.

Smart.  And that’s no surprise, coming from Vandy.

Post Comments » One Comment

 

 

Sources: Tanner To Be New USC Athletic Director

According to multiple sources and reports from the Palmetto State, South Carolina baseball coach Ray Tanner will be hired as the school’s athletic director on Friday.  At 54, Tanner has made it clear that his future lies in administration.  Now the Gamecocks will give him that chance, but it comes at a price.

Tanner — who came within a whisker of leading Carolina to a third-straight national title this season — will step down immediately as the Cocks’ coach.  He will not double-dip as both coach and AD.

Earlier this week, the man Tanner will replace said that anyone moving from the coaching ranks to the ranks of administrator might have a tough early transition.  According to Eric Hyman (who’s heading to Texas A&M at the end of the month):

 

“(The board of trustees) needs to decide what they think is in best interest of the school and if Ray’s it, he is certainty capable.  He is a very,very talented baseball coach and he’s got talent and it is going to be a learning curve for him, and so what he needs to do, is have a strong staff to be able to support him and assist.”

 

Well, according to folks in Columbia, the board and USC president Harris Pastides have indeed made their decision.  And it’s Tanner.

While the day of the ex-coach as AD has for the most part died away, there are still a few exes running big time programs — Barry Alvarez at Wisconsin and Tom Osborne at Nebraska come to mind.  Still, Hyman is right.  There will be a transition involved.  Carolina could have gone out and grabbed an experienced AD.  The program’s coffers, fan support, and excellent stable of coaches would have made the job very enticing to anyone.

Instead, the powers-that-be felt more comfortable with the man they knew.  If Tanner is as successful in the boardroom as he’s been on the baseball diamond, Carolina fans will be happy with that decision for years to come.

Post Comments » No Comments

 

 

Report: Carolina Not Likely To Name An Interim AD; Don’t Expect A Quick Decision

South Carolina president Harris Pastides is heading out of town for a week of business in Europe.  Eric Hyman is still the acting athletic director in Columbia through the end of July.  And Pastides has said that because of his travels and Hyman’s lengthy notice, he won’t have to rush to find and name the school’s next AD.

According to GamecockCentral.com (behind a paywall) — the Rivals’ site covering South Carolina — the school’s board of trustees “would prefer not to name an interim AD.”

What that means is that the process of scouring the earth for the next guy has begun and that there are certain to be some informal connections made in the time while Pastides is out of the country.  If all goes to plan upon his return, you should expect the Gamecocks to have a new boss in place by the end of the month or the first of August without ever having named someone to the role of temporary fill-in.

That also means that while you’re sure to hear scuttlebutt and rumors and leaks regarding people who’re thisclose to being hired, it’s not likely that anyone will actually be hired for at least a few weeks.

(Famous last words.)

Post Comments » No Comments

 

 

A&M Outduels Carolina For A.D. Hyman

We waited to post this one up in the hopes that something would become official.  That has apparently happened.  Texas A&M’s supposed push for Georgia Tech AD Dan Radakovich now looks like the mother of all smokescreens as the Aggies have hired Eric Hyman from new conference rival South Carolina.

That’s certainly be one way to ignite the two schools’ new permanent cross-divisional rivalry in football.

The Houston Chronicle — quoting an Aggie source early this morning — wrote that A&M had “tabbed” Hyman as it’s new AD, replacing the forced-out Bill Byrne.  Columbia’s The State reported that USC was making a last ditch effort to keep the man who’s helped turn around the Gamecock athletic department.

But Hyman has officially stepped down at Carolina in the past 15 minutes.  David Cloninger of GamecockCentral.com — the Rivals’ site covering the Cocks — tweeted the following, however:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hyman was the athletic director at TCU from 1997 through 2005 before heading to Columbia and the 61-year-old still has a son and daughter who live in Fort Worth.

Since arriving at Carolina, he’s overseen facility improvements and increased donations.  His hire of Steve Spurrier as football coach took a while to ferment, but now that move is producing wine as fine as the coach’s own “Cock-n-Fire” Cabernet Sauvignon.  (Don’t know about you, but when I see the words “cock” and “fire” on a wine label, I’m not buying the bottle.)

In basketball he landed Dawn Staley — one of the biggest names in the women’s game — and then lured Frank Martin to Columbia from Kansas State just a few short months ago.

This is a big, splashy hire for A&M as they kick off their SEC era… and quite a loss for Carolina.  Changes at the athletic director post are also difficult for the coaches involved.  Kevin Sumlin and Billy Kennedy in College Station are both new to their jobs and will have to hope they’ll get along with Hyman and that he’ll like what he sees of them.

Back in Columbia, Spurrier and Martin — who has to feel a bit shocked by this — will be left to wonder who their next boss will be and whether or not he’ll be as supportive as Hyman has been.

Hyman was considered an AD candidate at both Tennessee and North Carolina last year.

 

CORRECTION — Hey, when we’re wrong, we admit it.  And I blew one in my rush to finish up today’s posts and head off to do a radio show.  Above you’ll see that I credited Eric Hyman with the hire of Steve Spurrier.  Spurrier’s first season in Columbia was 2005.  Hyman started at South Carolina in 2005.  Couple those facts with the fast-deteriorating memory of a 40-year-old writer who thought he remembered Hyman hiring Spurrier and you’ve got a guy who didn’t feel he had to look it up just to be sure.  Whoops.

Hyman didn’t hire Spurrier.  He supported him vocally over the years, gave him and his assistants competitive raises, and he brought in enough money to help the Ol’ Ball Coach build the program.  But he didn’t hire him.

Spurrier was actually hired in November of 2004 in one of the final acts of South Carolina’s previous athletic director, Mike McGee (with some help from outgoing coach and Spurrier buddy Lou Holtz).  Thanks to a commenter below for pointing out my error in a non-jerkish way.

This wasn’t a typo done on the fly by someone who writes a few million words a day, this was a full-on flub.  And just as we tell you when we’re proven right — it’s called advertising — I have no problem owning up to a mistake — it’s called being accountable.

Above I mentioned Spurrier’s “Cock-N-Fire” wine.  Well, to quote Gene Hackman in “Unforgiven,” when it comes to me on the Hyman-hired-Spurrier part, the word “Misfire!” applies.  My apologies.  And thanks for reading the site.

Post Comments » Comments (18)

 

 

SEC Headlines – 5/9/12

1.  No surprise — the SEC still leads the way in college football attendance.

2.  Under Big Ten commish Jim Delany’s whacked out “Top 6 if You’re a Conference Champ” plan, seven of teams ranked in the Top four would have missed the playoffs in the last nine years.  (Anything other than 1-2-3-4 is muddying water that needn’t be muddied.)

3.  Alabama’s Nick Saban is looking for depth at quarterback following Phillip Sims’ transfer.

4.  Gene Chizik is glad to have more depth on his offensive and defensive lines at Auburn.

5.  Chizik and his Tigers will face old coordinator Gus Malzahn, old running back Mike Dyer (if he keeps his nose clearn), and Arkansas State in 2013.

6.  Defensive coordinator John Chavis is looking for even more success at LSU.

7.  Ex-Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino’s motorcycle is up for auction. (Wonder if Arthur Blank or Tom Jurich or Tommy Tuberville will try to buy it for sentimental reasons.)

8.  Razorback hoopster Marshawn Powell’s recovery from knee surgery is on schedule.

9.  Mississippi State’s two top coaches are ready to hit the speaking circuit.

10.  New Ole Miss AD Ross Bjork says the school did all it could to keep top fundraiser Danny White from leaving.  (He’s the new AD at Buffalo.)

11.  Facility upgrades and the transition into the SEC will be top priorities for Texas A&M’s next AD.

12.  Rival athletic directors are praising Bill Byrne has he heads for the exit at College Station.

13.  Florida’s defense is adding bulk.

14.  Quarterback Aaron Murray will be among those graduating at Georgia on Friday.

15.  Kentucky AD Mitch Barnhart says his school needs to pour $75-100 million into its football program for Commonwealth Stadium upgrades.

16.  This writer says there’s nothing out of the ordinary in the Nerlens Noel/NCAA story just yet.  (Aside from the fact that the NCAA is asking questions at all.)

17.  Ex-South Carolina hoopster will transfer to either Florida or Kansas.

18.  Derek Dooley’s new staff is hoping to provide a fresh start at Tennessee.

19.  Tulsa point guard Eric McClellan is transferring to Vanderbilt because he like “the overall feel.”

20.  Tony Barnhart of CBSSports.com wonders if Missouri could actually win the SEC East this year.

Post Comments » Comments (5)

 

 

Hogs Turn To Smith; Smith Turns On Alma Mater; Some Turn On Hogs And Smith

In the end, Arkansas AD Jeff Long both followed our prescription for filling his 2012 coaching vacancy and he didn’t.  He went with an interim coach who knows his team and most of the current staff, yes.  But he also went outside the current staff to bring that man back into the fold.  And that last part has moved Long into the “goat” category barely three weeks after he’d been placed in the “hero” zone by most national pundits.

When news broke yesterday that ex-Razorback special teams coach — and Bobby Petrino mentor — John L. Smith would be returning to Arkansas as the Hogs’ 2012 interim coach, like many folks I said: “Now, why didn’t I think of that?”  Well, because I always forget that taking a job as a college coach means absolutely and completely nothing to most coaches if another, better gig comes open tomorrow.

Coaches speak of trust when they talk to recruits and their parents.  But you can’t trust these guys.

Coaches speak of putting players first.  ”It’s about the kids.”  My left foot.  It’s never about the kids.  It’s about moving up the food chain.  Better jobs, more money.  Period.  End of story.

Coaches speak of loyalty.  But that’s a load of hooey, too.  Most players have to break through the Siegfried Line to transfer from a school, but a coach can pull up stakes a year or half-year into a job.  Even if they’ve just landed at their beloved alma mater:

 

“Number One, I’ve always had a place in my heart for Weber State.  You do that naturally. That’s your school, that’s where you graduated from, so that fondness, that love is always with you. And again, to come back to run your own program as a head coach again is crucial for me. This hopefully can serve as an opportunity for me to give back something to the university.”

 

That’s what Smith said last December — less than five months ago — when he left Arkansas to take the head coaching job at Weber State.  He asked his players to buy in this spring.  In February he asked new players to sign on.  Now, he’s darted out of Ogden, Utah quicker than you can say, “So long, suckers.”

The Smith Era at Weber State makes Lane Kiffin’s tenure at Tennessee appear downright Paterno-esque.  And to top it all off, Long made extra effort yesterday to point out that Smith called him.  It wasn’t the other way around.  Smith wanted the hell out of Dodge (Ogden).  Unless there’s some agreement for him to wear a WSU pin on his Razorback gear this fall — so he can tell the poor Weber State saps who hired him that they’ll be getting great pub all season — the “L” in his name must stand for Liar.  Or Loser.  Or Louse.  Or Leaving.

Maybe in Utah he should just go by John M. Smith with the M standing for Mud.

In Fayetteville, all is a cardinal hue of rosy this morning.  Naturally, some will scream that everyone’s just out to get Smith and Long ’cause they must hate the Hogs.  That would ignore the fact that Long was the man of the hour when he did what most viewed to be the right thing — the surprising thing — in dumping Petrino earlier this month.

Let’s tackle this thing from all angles…

 

If you’re Arkansas, why go with Smith?

That’s easy.  He knows all the players but the incoming freshmen, has worked with all the coaches on the staff (aside from Paul Haynes and Taver Johnson), and he understands the Arkansas job after spending three years on Petrino’s staff.  Long has grabbed a guy with big-time head coaching experience (good at Louisville, not so good at Michigan State) and avoided bringing in a true outsider all in one swoop.  On paper, it’s 90% positive.  (More about that other 10% three questions down.)

 

If you’re Smith, why ditch Weber State for Arkansas?

Smith is 63 and wanted to be a head coach again.  He wanted it so badly he took a head coaching gig at the FCS level.  Now he has a shot at an SEC title or maybe even a national crown.  He’s taking over a consensus Top 10 team.  If he wants to continue coaching, doing well at Arkansas will get him noticed a helluva lot quicker than anything he could have done at Weber State.

Also, we don’t know what Smith found when he arrived in Ogden, Utah last December.  To be fair, maybe he found that promises made to him by the folks who hired him were not going to be kept.  Perhaps there were personality conflicts between himself and his new boss.  Maybe there were family concerns.

Judging, however, from the comments of the folks Smith turned his back on, none of that seems to be the case.

The Salt Lake City Tribune says today Smith “jilts” Weber State.  WSU athletic director Jerry Bovee was clearly ticked in his quotes to the paper.  ”This is not a good time to hire a new football coach.  I was surprised, disappointed.  By the same token, this is a business — sometimes a cold business.”

Smith has now put Bovee in the crosshairs of many Weber State fans, but if the man didn’t care about his assistant coaches or his players you can be sure he doesn’t care about the guy who hired him.

Columnist Kurt Kragthorpe of The Tribune calls Smith’s move is an “insult to Weber State.”  He writes that Smith “can say anything he wants regarding his feelings for Arkansas,” but “Weber State is the only school that deserves such loyalty” from the man who just betrayed it.

Speaking of Smith’ ex-players, they were “stunned” that he would leave without ever coaching a game.  According to The Ogden Standard-Examiner, senior cornerback David James described his reaction to Smith’s move as “Disbelief, confusion, shock.”  Receiver Xavier Johnson said, “It hurts… We’ve been trying to build unity and come together as one, but now it’s like I don’t know if it’s possible to do that, just because we don’t have a head coach to guide us through that.”

A tip to players: The next time a coach talks to you about “unity,” laugh in his face.  He’ll be “unified” with you right up until someone offers him a bigger paycheck.

Matt Hammer — Smith’s offensive coordinator — took the standard coach’s view: “It’s just part of the profession.  Coach has a great opportunity to be part of a great program, and have a chance to be really good.  Financially, the whole deal, you can’t blame him.  All of us would do the same thing.  It’s just crazy.”

Notice that part about “all of us would do the same thing?  Unity, trust, togetherness.  Crock, crock, crock.  Bull, bull, bull.  Pick a school for the school, kids.  Coaches are lying businessmen and you’re just a commodity to them.

And to coaches like Nick Saban who talk about the fact there’s not enough trust in coaches, that we in the media are all just too cynical and jaded these days, he needs to be reminded of moves like this.  There’s a reason folks are cynical and jaded.

 

What’s Smith’s contract say?

Smith is the interim coach only.  You can view the deal here.  It’s a 10-month deal that will net the coach $850,000.  However, if he wins the BCS Championship Game, he’ll get a $200,000 bonus.  Other bowl bonuses — win or lose — range from $25,000 to $150,000.

The school reserves the right to reassign Smith to an administrative, non-coaching role at any point.  Smith must keep all of the current staff intact.  He also agreed to a non-compete clause for other SEC jobs, should he up and leave before the end of his 10-month contract.  (Now what kind of coach would leave a gig less than 10 months into… oh, wait.)

The contract is so unusual that business reporter Darren Rovell of CNBC calls it “precedent-setting… I haven’t seen anything like this, really.”  He added: “What you normally see in these contracts is it’s much to the advantage of the coach, not the institution.  This is a contract that is definitely advantage Arkansas.”

 

Why take the job if there’s not a chance to land the full-time gig?

If Smith wins big at Arkansas — even if he just gets the Hogs past Alabama and LSU to Atlanta — there will be some who’ll clamor for him to take over full-time.  He knows that.  If he can prove himself this year with a pre-built team, there’s a chance he’ll be Arkansas’ full-time guy in at year’s end.  And if Arkansas still turns to someone else, Smith will certainly have positioned himself for jobs better than the one he just short-timed out in Utah.

 

What’s the reaction from the Razorback players and coaches?

The players are positive about the move.  Twitter lit up with happy returns regarding Smith’s happy return.  The school’s current assistants are backing the move to, though in truth, what could they really say?  Will Tim Horton, Paul Petrino, Haynes and Johnson now feel that the school’s AD doesn’t have faith in them?  Maybe, maybe not and that’s the 10% negative we referred to above.  Toes get stepped on and feelings get hurt.  But publicly, the Razorback staff is all-in with Smith’s hire.

Laughably, however, Horton did have this to say about the decision to bring Smith back: “It’s about about putting the Razorbacks first and these kids first.”  Yep, always about puttin’ them kids first if you’re a coach.  Just ask the kids at Weber State.

 

What’s the reaction from the rest of America?

In Arkansas the reaction has been good.  As we noted above, Long covered a lot of bases with this hire, which will be made official today at 3pm ET.

From a national perspective, the response has been mixed.

Some are ripping Smith for his decision to up-end his alma mater.  Gregg Doyle of CBSSports.com is up for some ripping.  Gene Wojciechowski of ESPN.com is also swinging a brickbat today.

Kevin Scarbinsky of The Birmingham News says Arkansas needs to learn “that some advances should be declined.”

On the other hand, Stewart Mandel of SI.com calls the hiring of Smith a fascinating experiment.  Pat Forde of Yahoo! Sports calls the move “a home run.”

 

What message did Long send with this hire?

That he’s a bottom line guy and he doesn’t care what people say.

Petrino — it now seems — wasn’t fired for putting UA in a bad light, he was fired because Long couldn’t trust him and because the coach could have gotten the school sued.  PR had nothing to do with the decision to cut Petrino loose and it has nothing to do with the decision to bring back Smith.

Long didn’t care to look bad when he snaked Petrino from the Atlanta Falcons less than a year into his job there and he doesn’t care to look bad now for swiping Smith just about 50 days after he’d signed his first Weber State class of recruits.  If you’re an Arkansas fan, you love that.  Long isn’t paid by the Falcons or Weber State.  He’s out cutting throats for Arkansas.

But Long has blown a lot of good press and sacrificed a lot of good will with this hire.  He can only hope this poorly-timed theft of another guy’s coach ends better than the last time he decided to go the bad-timing route.

 

What’s Petrino’s take on his old buddy landing his old job?

The man who wrecked his motorcycle, his family and his bank account all in one crash says he’s happy for Smith to be taking over in Fayetteville.  Via press release, Petrino said:  “While there were several outstanding internal candidates, John L. brings a lot of head coaching experience to the table that will help Arkansas transition.  He will unify the staff, the team and the Razorback fan base. I wish Coach Smith, his staff and the Arkansas football team the very best.”

Wonder if Petrino would have preferred his brother and offensive coordinator Paul get the job?

 

What’s the bottom line?

Long and Arkansas today have an interim coach with FBS experience.  Smith knows the program, the players and most of the assistants on staff.  To get out of Utah he was willing to give complete hiring/firing control over the entire football staff to the AD.  His assistants can now tell recruits what the plan is for 2012.

Long can now set about to find the best coach in America for the Razorbacks post-2012.  If he wins some sort of division, league or national title, maybe that man becomes Smith.  If not, Long has now given himself eight months to study and chat.  He can talk to guys currently outside of coaching.

Knowing that it will be easier to talk to guys without jobs — though that’s not been Long’s MO with his last two hires — and also realizing that Long could give a flip about public perception, we at MrSEC.com are beginning to think Arkansas native and former North Carolina coach Butch Davis might just be the man to land the Razorback job long-term at season’s end.

NCAA concerns from his stay in Chapel Hill?  It should be clear to all by now that Long isn’t worried what concerns anyone outside his own office have.

Ask the folks at Weber State.

Post Comments » Comments (13)

 

 

Aggies Wait For Final Word On Byrne’s “Transition”

Texas A&M AD Bill Byrne is on his way out.  What had been rumored for months was confirmed by A&M president R. Bowen Loftin on Friday.  The school and its athletic director were involved in talks designed to create an amicable parting.

Byrne’s contract runs through 2013 and the school says it will “honor the terms” of that deal, though Byrne will likely make a “natural transition” into another position before retiring next year.  So what will that position be and just how natural will it be for him to still be around while a new AD takes over his old office?

Here’s betting the natural transition never really occurs.  It will be easier for all parties to simply reach some sort of financial settlement and have Byrne exit sooner rather than later.  Oh, sure, he may still be given an office somewhere on campus like so many ex-coaches and ex-ADs, but the likelihood of him ever showing up and doing any actual work is slim.

If this plays out as most of these things play out, we suspect Texas A&M will have an interim AD in place by about the time of the SEC Meetings in late-May, early-June… and by the time a new full-time AD arrives in College Station, Byrne will likely be hitting a golf course.

Post Comments » Comments (8)

 

 

Petrino’s Out, But What’s Next For Arkansas?

When news of Bobby Petrino’s motorcycle crash took off late last week, we wrote that if the coach lost his job it would be because a) he lied to his bosses, and/or b) he put the University of Arkansas in a position to be sued.  It would not be because he had cheated on his wife.  Hiring the person he had an inappropriate relationship with would be the much bigger problem, in our view.

The longer AD Jeff Long dug into the situation, the more clear it became that UA didn’t want to can Petrino unless the outlook was just too bleak.  Yesterday we wrote that if the coach were axed, it would be “because there’s so much dirt behind the scenes and on the horizon” that the school couldn’t keep him.

Turns out, the lie to his superiors, the hiring of his mistress, and a we-all-just-learned-about-it $20,000 gift from the coach to Jessica Dorrell did indeed go on behind the scenes.  Oh, and he hired her over 158 other candidates.  And that could open the school up to lawsuits from 159 people including Dorrell herself for sexual harassment.

Also, Long said last night that Petrino’s relationship with the UA employee had lasted for “a significant period of time.”  In other words, he’s been lying about that relationship — we assume — for quite a while.

Add it all up and you’ll understand why Petrino was shown the door last night.  Despite the fact that he was worth millions to the school.

Now, to any rational person there’s no question Long and the UA administration did the right thing — you can’t have an employee openly lie to you and put the university in jeopardy from a legal standpoint.

As Long said last night:

“He made the decision, a conscious decision, to mislead the public on Tuesday, and in doing so negatively and adversely affected the reputation of the University of Arkansas and our football program.  In short, coach Petrino engaged in a pattern of misleading and manipulative behavior designed to decieve me and members of the athletic staff, both before and after the motorcycle accident…

Coach Petrino abused his authority when over the past few weeks he made a staff decision and personal choices that benefited himself and jeopardized the integrity of the football program.”

Aside from a few saps, there’s not a boss in the world who would have retained Petrino.  As ever, it was the lie that got him, the cover-up.  As we said Friday, Jim Tressel and Bruce Pearl learned that lesson in 2011.  Petrino either doesn’t have ESPN or he didn’t pay attention to those coaches’ sagas.  How else could he lie to the press and to his bosses?  And how could Long or UA chancellor G. David Gearhart ever trust him again after he’d lied to them?

And let’s be clear to the “we all fib every now and again” crowd, Petrino didn’t lie about who drank the last gulp of coffee in the break room.  He lied about a police investigation and a relationship with a subordinate.  UA had no choice but to dismiss him.

Unfortunately, the departure of Petrino only raises more questions for a program that had clearly been on the rise.  Here are a few:

1.  Will Long suffer a backlash?

On Friday, Andy Staples of SI.com warned that Long was in a precarious situation.  Having lived in both East Tennessee and Central Ohio, this writer told you that there was considerable backlash against the men who fired Pearl at Tennessee and Tressel at Ohio State despite the fact that those ADs and those schools really had little choice otherwise.  (You can find both articles here.)

Anyone who saw the riots at Penn State when Joe Paterno was sacked knows that there will always be a portion of fans who worry only about wins, nothing else.  If Vladimir Putin could coach ball, there’d be plenty of folks more than happy for their school to hire him.

So how much trouble is Long in after making this move?  As of last night the messageboards were already lighting up with some folks calling for the AD’s head rather than Petrino’s.  In the end, will Petrino take Long down with him?

CBSSports.com’s ever-excellent scribe Tony Barnhart clearly believes it’s possible:

“As hard as it was for Long to step up and do the right thing and to show extraordinary leadership, the really hard part is just beginning.  In the aftermath of Tuesday’s press conference, Long and Arkansas will be praised for their integrity and deservedly so.  But if Long can’t hire another coach as good as Petrino who can keep the program on an upward cycle, he could be gone by the New Year.  And that would be a shame.”

Long needs the strong support and backing of UA’s chancellor right now.  Last night all he got was a statement from his boss that featured more legalese than “we’re behind ya” comments:


“This is a sad day for the University of Arkansas and Razorback sports.  After a thorough review, Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics Jeff Long has made his decision.  Mr. Petrino’s contract establishes a process by which he may have his termination decision reviewed.  Under that process, the review would ultimately come to me for consideration and action.  Given my role in the review process as Chancellor, I must decline further comment on today’s announcement.”

Translation: “We’re doing things the buttoned-up way.  Petrino’s contract says he can bring his firing to me if he feels it was an unfair decision and I would have to make a ruling supporting him or supporting my AD in that case.  So I can’t say anything about it lest it appear that I’m already biased against the coach.”

Long must have known before dismissing Petrino that he would have Gearhart’s backing if push came to shove.

How far that will go with Razorback fans if UA’s program starts to dip is anyone’s guess.  But if the Hogs do take a step back, Petrino should get the blame… not Long.

2.  How much will this move cost Arkansas financially?

Well, according to the letter that Long sent to Petrino — yep, he fired him with a letter, not in a face-to-face meeting — the school is ditching the coach with cause.  Meaning no multimillion dollar buyout.  That’s a plus because there could be millions that will need to be coughed up in other directions shortly.

The school could face a sexual harassment suit from Dorrell (more on that later).  The school could face a wrongful termination suit from Petrino (more on that later).  The school could possibly face lawsuits from some or all of the 158 people passed over when Petrino hired Dorrell for a $50,000+ job in his football department.

The school is also on the hook for a multimillion dollar football complex that’s being built.  Will those who’ve committed cash to the project suddenly pull their dollars now that Petrino’s not in charge of things anymore?

Also, bringing in a new coach might not be as easy as one might think.  Arkansas was a program on the move and the school has great fan support.  There’s money all around and the school’s in the SEC, the launching pad to national championships.  At the same time, the school’s in the SEC.  As good as Petrino had been, he hadn’t even reached Atlanta from the cutthroat SEC West (which is now adding Texas A&M).  He’d had just two years of Top 10 success.  That’s it.  Prospective coaches won’t confuse Arkansas for Alabama tradition-wise.

Also Petrino’s offensive system allowed him to win without five-star recruits.  Any new coach would know that Arkansas is a talent-poor state, so he better have a darn good system of his own.  And he would also know that living up to Petrino’s success and popularity would be a difficult challenge.

Someone will jump at the Arkansas job, sure, but they may ask for a bit more than the going rate to take over a program that’s in a real bind at the moment.

3.  So who will Arkansas hire?

Many names are already floating around: Butch Davis (would you hire a man who lost his job in a mess to come clean up a mess?), Gus Malzahn (would Arkansas want an unproven head coach from lil’ brother, Arkansas State?) and Charlie Strong (Louisville’s coach is a defense-first guy, just the opposite of Petrino).  South Florida’s Skip Holtz has been mentioned.  Ditto Mark Hudspeth of Louisiana-Lafayette.  Inside the SEC, James Franklin and Dan Mullen are viewed as up-and-comers.

And we’ll throw out Jon Gruden’s name just because someone always throws out Jon Gruden’s name.

But the name most mentioned at this point is that of Garrick McGee.  Former Hog quarterback Ryan Mallett was already campaigning for the ex-Razorback offensive coordinator via Twitter last night.  “GM only coach Ark should look at if they wanna win now,” he wrote before following up to make it clear he was referring to McGee, not Malzahn.

McGee is in his first spring at UAB.  Would he leave that school so quickly?

Are you kidding?  For Arkansas?  Yes, he’d leave.

But he might not take the gig right now.

4.  Will Arkansas hire a new coach after the spring or use an interim for the year?

Many Razorback fans believe this is the year they’ll vault past LSU and Alabama and into the SEC title game.  Maybe so.  If not, they can blame Petrino.

Currently, Long intends to keep the current staff in place through spring — including Petrino’s brother, Paul, the Hogs’ offensive coordinator.  (Tell me that’s not going to be uncomfortable.)  Taver Johnson — just hired from Ohio State — will continue to run the team as it completes spring drills.

It is believed Long will then open a search to see who might be available.  In late-April, early-May.

In our view, Arkansas would be better off bringing in an interim coach for one season than making a hasty move.  Stealing McGee from UAB — if Long chose to do that — would only lead to catcalls from the national press.  The AD would have taken the high road with regards to Petrino… and then backdoored another school’s season.  (Of course, he also backdoored the NFL’s Falcons’ season when he grabbed Petrino, so he’s not above such a move.)

The Razorback program has had its ups and downs.  It should be looking for someone who can bring consistent ups.  The longer the vetting process, the better.  Imagine if Long could spend the entire fall scouring the country for the right person, the right fit, the right coach?

Long — and Hog fans are gonna scream about this take — must be willing to sacrifice the 2012 season for the long-term stability and good of the program.  Perhaps an interim coach can win big with the unit Petrino’s put in place.  If the ex-coach’s brother stays on to run the offense, all system’s should still be go for UA this fall.

Better to take the time to find the absolute best fit than to make a rushed decision.  The last school to do that in the SEC was Tennessee following Lane Kiffin’s surprising exit (more on him later) and that landed UT Derek Dooley.  Dooley hasn’t exactly torn things up as of yet.


5.  What’s Petrino’s next move?

The coach released a statement last night apologizing for his behavior:

“As a result of my personal mistakes, we will not get to finish our goal of building a championship program.  My sole focus at this point is trying to repair the damage I’ve done to my family.  They did not ask for any of this and deserve better.  I am committed to being a better husband, father and human being as a result of this and will work each and every day to prove that to my family, friends and others.”

So he’s walking away quietly?  Not necessarily.  His statement also included this paragraph:


“I’m sure you heard Jeff Long’s reasons for termination.  There was a lot of information shared.  Given the decision that has been made, this is not the place to debate Jeff’s view of what happened.  In the end, I put him in the position of having to sort through my mistakes and that is my fault.”

That suggests Petrino might choose to “debate” Long’s view of what happened somewhere else at some other point.  That could mean in a review with Gearhart in which he angles for some type of buyout.  Or it could mean in a courtroom if things get contentious enough.  We doubt Petrino will sue because it doesn’t appear he has much of a case — he was rightfully terminated — and he surely won’t want to put his family through a court fight.

But it’s possible.

6.  What’s up with Dorrell?

Dorrell was a consenting adult in all of this mess, but as Petrino’s subordinate, she will be harder to fire than her boss. Long would not comment on her situation last night.  Friends have said that she’s basically gone into hiding after all of this.

Personally, I feel for Dorrell… and for Petrino.  They’re human — whether you like him, her, neither or both — and they failed.  There’s no one reading this who hasn’t failed at one time or another in terms of their morality.  And in case you feel like commenting that their failures are greater than your failures, congratulations, you just failed.  “Judge not, lest ye be judged.”

Petrino earned his ouster.  Dorrell — from what we know — earned one, too.  That doesn’t mean they should be taken to the city gates and stoned.

7.  Who will give Petrino his next shot?

In his career, the book on Petrino is that — at best — he’s an opportunist.  While at Louisville he went behind his AD’s back to try and grab the job of Auburn’s Tommy Tuberville, his former employer.  With the Atlanta Falcons, he skipped town midseason leaving goodbye notes for his players and egg on the face of the owner who’d hired him.

Now this.

But Petrino wins football games.  He turns programs around quickly.  He can even do it in college football’s toughest division.  And he doesn’t need Top 10 recruiting classes to do it.

There will come a time when another AD will step to a podium and introduce a “changed” Petrino who is deserving of a second chance.  It’ll happen.  Guaranteed.  Start the clock.

8.  Who will be the next SEC coach to flame out?

The book on Petrino when he was hired was that he was a bad dude.  Long and the Razorback faithful looked the other way, defended their coach, and then got burned.

Kiffin — who we mentioned above — was called an out-and-out liar by former employer Al Davis when Tennessee hired him.  Davis said he would screw up the UT program.  Vol fans called Davis a kook, defended their coach, and then got burned.

Tressel — also mentioned above — had a history of NCAA transgressions while winning national titles at Youngstown State.  When John Cooper didn’t beat Michigan enough, Ohio State called Tressel back to Columbus.  Buckeye fans defended Tressel even as ooze began to leak out regarding Maurice Clarett and Tyrelle Pryor.  They too got burned.

Coaches with bad reputations tend to have bad reputations for a reason.  So who in the SEC fits that mold today?  How ’bout John Calipari at Kentucky?

We always take a beating from fans of the other SEC schools whenever we point out that UK’s coach has never been found guilty of any wrongdoing by the NCAA.  None.  Well, today we’ll take a beating from Kentucky fans for pointing out that that school looked the other way regarding Calipari’s reputation, they’ve defended him against all attacks, and — if history repeats itself — they could wind up getting burned at some point down the line.

Now, some Petrino/Arkansas national headlines:

Arkansas’ Long does right by the school as Petrino does wrong by everyone

With Petrino out, who’s next at Arkansas

Arkansas was ultimately left with no other option but to fire Petrino

Right call: Losing Bobby Petrino

Petrino ouster leaves huge hole for Hogs

And now for some headlines out of the Natural State:

Petrino Fired After Jeopardizing Integrity Of Program

Long did what he thought was best for UA

Long has had this task before

What Arkansas Players (Past, Former, Future) Are Saying

Bobby Petrino Is Out, Now Where Does Jeff Long Turn For A Razorback Coach?

Post Comments » Comments (30)

 

 



Follow Us On:
Mobile MrSEC