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John L. Smith Will Coach Arkansas

Former Razorbacks assistant John L. Smith is headed back to Arkansas to replace fired football coach Bobby Petrino.   Smith spent three years as the special teams coach in Fayetteville.  Smith, who’s leaving Weber State, gets a one-year deal.

Smith has a 132-86 record as a head coach at Michigan State, Louisville, Idaho and Utah State.

He’ll be introduced as the new coach at Arkansas on Tuesday.

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Hog Aides Hit The Recruiting Trail; Long Needs To Make A Call Soon

Arkansas AD Jeff Long gave new assistant head coach Taver Johnson control of the Razorback football program through spring practice.  On Saturday, spring drills concluded in Fayetteville.  Today, Hog assistants are hitting the road for the spring evaluation period.

But Long has yet to announce who’ll be leading UA from here.

Johnson told ArkansasNews.com on Saturday that he would “have a 6 a.m. flight and I’ll be on it,” when it comes to luring in new players.  But what will he and others say when asked, “Are you coaching us?”

Long needs to make his call.  Soon.  He said last week that his decision would come in “days, not weeks.”  One report suggested that pick could be made official today.  Good.

From the start we’ve said that the best bet for Arkansas this season and beyond is for Long to simply promote a current member of a veteran coaching staff to the title of interim coach for the 2012 season.  No fuss, no muss, no players-getting-to-know-new-coaches, no issues with an outside interim coming in and running the show over a group of aides who already know how to work together.  Best of all, Long would be able to spend the next few months targeting the right man for the job long-term.  And the pool of candidates willing to move in December would be greater than the pool of candidates who would be willing to move now, as well.

The fact that Long has dragged out his interim selection so long suggests that he didn’t agree with our advice.  If he had, he’d have tabbed Johnson or Tim Horton or Paul Petrino as his guy two weeks ago.  Instead, it’s been rumored he’s talked to everyone from Phillip Fulmer (as an interim candidate) to Pete Carroll (as a full-time candidate).

If and when he promotes someone from within — be it today or tomorrow or later this week — there will be little doubt that he’s done his homework.  That’s a positive.

But sending his coaches out on the recruiting trail without a plan just yet?  That’s a negative.  That will only help to add to the perception in some kids’ and parents’ minds that UA is a rudderless ship at the moment.

Long needs to make a call.  Quickly.  And he needs to make the call we suggested when he first gave Bobby Petrino the hook.

An interim from within for now.  A solid, smart search for eight months.  And a darn good hire come November or December.

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Hogs’ Long Draws Praise From QB Wilson; Shows That Ex-Coaches As A.D.s Can Still Make Sense

Since pulling the trigger on the Bobby Petrino dismissal two weeks ago, Arkansas AD Jeff Long has received support from the vast majority of the Razorback fanbase, from some cash-tossing big boosters, and now from members of the UA football team.

Because of Long’s willingness to talk with the team about the situation, quarterback Tyler Wilson has been singing the praises of his school’s AD:


“He acted like he was the man in charge, and he is.  I appreciate that from him.  He’s an athletic director, not a football coach, but he has been (a coach) in the past.  I think that’s great.  I’m proud of the leadership he’s displayed.  Absolutely.”


Wilson brings up an interesting point.  As athletic departments have evolved into multimillion dollar business entities, more and more of the men (and women) running those departments have come up through the sales, marketing or accounting ranks.  There are fewer and fewer ex-coaches at the tops of big-time athletic departments today because schools want proven business people overseeing what amounts to big business.  Hard to blame them.

But in situations like this with Petrino — scandals, coaching changes, etc — it’s probably good to have an ex-coach at the helm.  Long knows how to talk to a team.  He knows what the men (or women) in a locker room are looking for in terms of answers from him. 

Long has proven to be the best of both worlds for UA — an ex-coach (at Miami of Ohio, Rice, Duke, NC State and Michigan) and a seasoned administrator.  This seems to be especially true in terms of dealing with the current football team in the midst of this current upheaval.

Now if he can just find the right coach to finish what Petrino started.

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Petrino’s Gift Paid For Dorrell’s Vehicle

Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long announced Tuesday night that former coach Bobby Petrino had given a $20,000 gift to Jessica Dorrell.

Some “gift,” many thought. It turns out Dorrell used that $20,000 to purchase a black Acura.

That information was included in Long’s termination letter to Petrino, details of which were released on Friday. Long wrote to Petrino:

“Your conduct and actions in this matter have generated voluminous negative media stories and opinions, within Arkansas and nationally, that have harmed the reputation of the University of Arkansas and our athletic programs. We are now faced with the task of restoring the reputation of our institution and our athletics programs that many individuals and teams have worked hard to build over the years.”

Meanwhile, Arkansas must figure out how to handle Dorrell’s employment status while she remains on paid administrative leave. That’s all while Ms. Dorrell decides her next step and possible action toward the University of Arkansas.

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Arkansas Suspends Dorrell

The University of Arkansas has announced this morning that Jessica Dorrell — the UA employee with whom Bobby Petrino shared an “inappropriate relationship” — has been suspended and placed on paid administrative leave.

Facing a possible sexual harassment suit from Dorrell, you can be sure that UA attorneys have done their homework on this matter before okaying her suspension.  Petrino was suspended immediately after the story became public while Dorrell’s situation remained up in the air until today.

It will be interesting to see if UA has enough goods on Dorrell to sever ties with her permanently or if the school is forced into some sort of payoff to prevent her from filing a lawsuit against the school.  After all, she could claim that Petrino — being in a position of power and representing the University of Arkansas — “forced” her into having a relationship with him. 

Arkansas is swimming in some mighty murky waters on this one. 

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Writer: Dollars Could Save Petrino

Gregg Doyel of CBSSports.com isn’t my favorite writer.  I believe he is brash and abrasive for the sake of being brash and abrasive… because that kind of thing is what stands out, grabs pageviews and equals dollars into today’s media world.

Ironically, Doyel writes today that it could be dollars that save Arkansas football coach Bobby Petrino.  There’s nothing new in what Doyel opines and — to be honest — it’s a little surprising that he didn’t immediately wonder if Petrino’s value to Arkansas might save his hyde.  Most everyone else did.

That said, here’s part of his take on why the Razorback administration might be dragging its feet on giving Petrino the boot:


“Maybe Petrino won’t remain in his job for long, once Arkansas concludes its review of his motorcycle crash/cover-up, but I’m not hopeful.  Which is to say, I’m not naive and gullible.  Not anymore.  Not as naive and gullible as I was a few days ago, anyway, when the news first broke of Jessica Dorrell’s position under Petrino (ahem) and I fired off a scathing missive that said of course Petrino would be fired.  Because I was under the illusion on Friday that real-world rules applied to the Candyland that is college football.

Don’t I feel dumb.

Over the weekened I did some research, read everything I could read about the marriage in question, and realized Arkansas probably can’t afford to divorce Bobby Petrino.  He is the biggest provider for the Arkansas athletic department, and not because he’s the football coach — but because he’s the best football coach in Arkansas history.  Since Petrino got the Hogs rolling in 2009, accoridng to Forbes magazine, the value of the Arkansas football program has increased more than any football program in the country (59 percent), all the way to $89 million.  That value will skyrocket ever higher once the school completes construction on its 80,000-square-foot football facility, a facility that will cost at least $35 million, a facility helped along by Petrino’s run of success.

A facility that has not been paid for, as yet.

The school has commitments for much of the money, but a commitment is not cash.  And those commitments were made by donors under the impression that Bobby Petrino would be the coach working in that new facility.”


Whether it’s a crime or a college athletic department, always follow the money, folks.  If Petrino were losing games in front of a partially-filled stadium he would already be gone.  That statement should shock no one.  And it works the other way, too.

How many times have we written on this site that the fans — not the ADs and presidents — hold the futures of their favorite schools’ coaches in their hands?  If attendance drops and donations dry up, forget the positive track record, the A+ NCAA compliance, and the positive influence stuff.  None of that matters.  If a coach isn’t putting rumps in seats he’s a goner.

See: Rick Stansbury this season.  He is the winningest coach in Mississippi State history.  But disappointed Bulldog fans stopped coming to games and he “retired” after the season.

Go back to 2008 and the end of Phillip Fulmer’s reign at Tennessee.  He’d won a national title and two SEC crowns in 16 seasons at his alma mater, but when Alabama fans took over Neyland Stadium in 2008, we wrote that the clock was ticking down on his tenure.  Turns out, Fulmer lasted one more game before being forced to announce his resignation.

It’s all about the money.  If a school’s making it, then a coach is hard to touch (Petrino).  If a school’s revenue stream starts to decline, any coach can be given his walking papers.

If Petrino is ousted, it will because there’s so much dirt behind the scenes and on the horizon that the school can’t possibly find a way to save him.  Because they most definitely want to save him.  Doyel’s right on that one.  Petrino’s too valuable not to save.

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It’s Long’s Call on Petrino, But Where Would He Turn If He Fires The Coach?

Harry King has covered a lot of Arkansas sports in his day.  The columnist for ArkansasNews.com posted a few of his views on the Bobby Petrino subject today and they fall right in line with what we wrote yesterday.  A sampling:


“Opinion is all over the place and the two extremes are espoused by those eager to talk.

Behind the scenes, I suspect the views are just as diverse — from fire him to slap him on the wrist — even among members of the UA Board of Trustees.  No doubt, it’s the same with donors who give big bucks to the Razorback Foundation.  There must be those who say they will pull their donations if he is fired and those who say they will pull their donations if he is retained.

Charged with ignoring the morass of outside sentiment is athletic director Jeff Long, who also must disengage himself from a personal disappointment.  After all, he has been over backwards to accommodate Petrino’s every whim and his thank you was a lie…

The gut feeling is that Long wants to keep Petrino, knowing that he has revitalized old fans and brought in new ones.”


Meanwhile, the Bobby Petrino support group that got so much attention yesterday with — as of this morning — 20,000+ Facebook members might not live up to the headlines it received.  ArkansasSports360.com reports that “Team Save Coach Petrino” was “adding members without permission throughout Monday” on the social media site. 

Also, just about 200 pro-Petrino folks showed up at an on-campus rally yesterday.  Signs at the event covered the gamut.  One said, “What’s Wrong With Scoring In The Offseason?”  Another read, “Accept Apology and FORGIVE.  Jesus Saved Bobby… Jeff… You Can Too.”

As we’ve written time and again, if Petrino gets the boot it won’t be because he had an inappropriate relationship.  It will be because he hired the girl with whom he had the relationship — putting the school at risk for a major lawsuit — and because he lied to his bosses in an attempt to cover-up who was with him on his motorcycle.

The organizer of the event — Hog fan Matt Couch — admitted that his support is tied to Petrino’s record, nothing more.  (Which means he’d and the other members of his group had better not make a peep when a coach at another program gets in trouble.  They’ve surrendered the moral high ground.)


“If they won seven games would we be saying the same thing?  Probably not…  There’s probably a chance we wouldn’t even be having this rally because that decision would have already been made (by the university).”


Petrino — for now — remains.  He’s suspended while new assistant Taver Johnson leads the team through spring drills.  Arkansas’ AD clearly wants to keep his coach if he can.

But if he can’t, where might Long turn to replace Petrino?  Kevin Scarbinsky of The Birmingham News thinks new UAB coach Garrick McGee could be a target.  That’s because McGee just arrived in Birmingham after a four-year stint on Petrino’s staff.  The last two years he was the Razorbacks’ offensive coordinator.

The folks at AthlonSports.com have put together a list of 10 potential candidates to replace Petrino should he be ousted, including Gus Malzahn from Arkansas State and Kirby Smart, the defensive coordinator at Alabama.

But what of an in-family move?  McGee took over the reins of the UA offense when Petrino’s brother Paul left to head up Illinois’ offense.  With McGee leaving and Ron Zook out in Champagne, Paul Petrino is back as the Hogs’ offensive coordinator.

Could Long exit one brother and simply promote the other?  Would Paul do that?  Would Bobby want him to?  And why has Paul never gotten a shot at a head coaching job considering his brother’s success?

There will be options aplenty if Long does have to pull the trigger on Petrino.  But for now, it still looks like he’s doing all that he can to keep from doing that.

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Petrino Morning Headlines

Atlanta Falcons fans are loving it.  Tommy Tuberville-backers are loving it.  And a lot of Arkansas fans are torn over it.

Bobby Petrino’s admission yesterday that he wrecked his motorcycle while riding with a 25-year-old woman he’d just hired into his football program leaves some fans defending their coach — he’s winning games, after all — and others ready to hurl their Bibles at him.

Below is a quick look at what’s being written about the topic this morning:


1.  As you already know, Petrino has been placed on paid leave.

2.  The coach could be in violation of the university’s policy on sexual harrassment.

3.  Here is Petrino’s two paragraph statement from last night in its entirety.

4.  Assistant head coach and linebackers coach Taver Johnson — the newest member of the Razorback staff — has been put in charge of the program for the time being.

5.  The University of Arkansas has “a public relations nightmare” on its hands.

6.  Here’s the official police report.

7.  Dennis Dodd of CBSSports.com says Petrino’s career should not survive because he will no longer be able to recruit.

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Petrino Returns – In Neckbrace – To Arkansas’ Practice

Complete with a scuffed up face and a neckbrace, Bobby Petrino admitted that he was “very fortunate” and felt “very lucky to be here” during a press conference in Fayetteville yesterday afternoon.

Arkansas’ football coach survived a helmet-less — how unnecessarily stupid! — motorcycle crash on Sunday, but was out of the hospital and back to work yesterday.  He suffered four broken ribs, a cracked vertebrae and a neck sprain.

The neckbrace will be part of his look for the next couple of weeks.





Petrino wasn’t the only returnee to practice yesterday.  Offensive line Jason Peacock was reinstated to the football team on Tuesday following a recent arrest for buying $35.01 worth of gasoline from a debit card reported stolen by a classmate.  (They set those pumps up so that .00 rolls over to .01 more quickly, don’t they?)

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Hogs’ Petrino Injured In Motorcycle Crash

Arkansas football coach Bobby Petrino has been hospitalized following a motorcycle crash last night.  According to police this morning, Petrino’s cycle veered of a highway and no other vehicles were involved in the wreck.  A police spokesman said Petrino was taken to a hospital in Washington County last night but that he did not know the coach’s condition or whether he is still hospitalized.

Sources told ESPN.com’s Joe Schad that the coach “did not suffer life-threatening injuries and is expected to recover.”  A “source close to Petrino” told Schad that Petrino is “pretty banged up.”

Tom Murphy of The Arkansas Democrat Gazette has tweeted the following:


“Source close to situation said Bobby Petrino had multiple broken ribs, “all kinds of cuts and bruises,” neck sprain, but going to be OK.”


Petrino is “an avid motorcycle enthusiast” according to the AP report.  The crash happened about 7:45pm ET last night about 23 miles southeast of Fayetteville. 

Arkansas’ coach is expected to try to return to practice as soon as possible, but no one knows how long it will take him to recover.

Bobby Petrino is a lucky man.

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