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Writer: Dollars Could Save Petrino

Gregg Doyel of 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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