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Support Group Rallies To Back Petrino As A.D. Long Tries To Navigate Major Mess

(If you read an early version of this story, please re-fresh.  A “draft” when up with multiple errors.  Apologies.)

Ya gotta love double-standards.  Trust me, at MrSEC.com, we see ‘em everyday.

If Team X’s coach jaywalks, Team Y’s fans want him drawn and quartered.  But if Team Y’s coach takes a family hostage, burns down a church and Roseanne Barr’s the National Anthem — yep, used that as a verb — then their coach deserves a second chance.

And then there’s the double-standard within that double-standard.  Team Y’s fans’ look-the-other-way attitude only exists if Team Y’s coach is winning.  If Team Y’s coach is losing, then they — like the fans of Team X — will yelp for the man’s dismissal.

That very scenario is playing out in Arkansas right now.  Some fans want Bobby Petrino gone because he apparently messed around on his wife.  But another group want him to keep his job ’cause — let’s face it — he’s led the Razorbacks out of the wilderness!  Arkansas is winning football games again.  And even some of those who told ESPN over the weekend that they want Petrino to keep his job, admit they might have a different take if he were losing games:

As we discussed last week, we don’t think the “moral” clause of Petrino’s contract will be his undoing.  There is a line of thinking that goes like this: “If you don’t invoke the moral turpitude clause now, when do you?”  Makes sense, but see the bit about double-standards above.  You invoke it the next time a losing badminton coach urinates in public.  Who cares if people say UA has a double-standard?  Everyone does.

It’s clear at this point that Arkansas wants to keep Petrino if at all possible.  He’s worth millions of dollars in cash and exposure — the good, football kind — for the university.  If they find a way to hang onto him, yes, the school will take a few kicks to the ribs from rival recruiters and the national press, but if Petrino keeps winning — and here’s betting he would — that’ll all go bye-bye.

I watched Louisville reach the Final Four this season and I didn’t hear anyone bring up the school’s 2009 decision to stand by Rick Pitino after his sex scandal.

And Arkansas wouldn’t be the first group to be right out front with its double-standard.  See: Newt Gingrich backers who once went after Bill Clinton.  And see: Democrats who now throw low-blows at Gingrich for doing what Clinton did.  Happens every day.  “My guy can do anything he likes, your guy better mind his Ps and Qs.”

At this point, Arkansas AD Jeff Long is likely dealing with a number of groups as he tries to find his way out of mess he didn’t make.  Those people include:

1.  Jessica Dorrell and her betrothed.  Both work for the University of Arkansas.  She can sue the school and/or Petrino for sexual harassment.  Right now the school is most likely trying to find out what it will cost to keep Dorrell and her fiance quiet.  (Sidenote — The folks who initially found Petrino and Dorrell on the side of the road stated that Petrino was alone.  Now they’ve gone into silent mode.  Do they have more dirt to share about what the coach and Dorrell told them?  Might they want some hush money, too?)

2.  Petrino himself.  More than likely the school’s PR wing is cooking up a statement this instant that the coach can read at a presser should he be retained.  At the same time, Long has to be grilling Petrino to come clean on everything that the coach did wrong in this situation.  He’ll also want to know if there are any other skeletons in Petrino’s closet.

3.  The UA legal team and some additional group of private investigators.  The school needs to be thinking of every possible lawsuit that could come its way and it needs to be ready with a defense for each should it hang on to Petrino.  And remember, from Clinton to Tiger Woods, when dirt is found on a celebrity, more and more people tend to come out of the woodwork with new stories, true or not.  If Arkansas keeps Petrino, the school will want to be sure tales of another “inappropriate relationship” aren’t just around the corner.  Also, if Petrino stays, the school will no doubt penalize the coach with a tougher contract worth less cash.  All this is tied to the schools’ lawyers.  (If Petrino’s wise, he’ll take whatever lifeline the school may throw him… winner or not, it would be hard for another school or NFL team to bring him in anytime soon thanks to his various past actions.)

5.  The police.  The Arkansas State Police are now asking questions about the handling of the initial accident.  Just how inappropriately did the officer from Petrino’s in-season security detail act in order to keep Petrino’s dirty laundry in the hamper, so to speak?  If a police officer loses his job over all this, it’ll be an even more difficult sell to keep Petrino.

6.  UA chancellor G. David Gearhart and the school’s board.  This is a group that’s well aware of the money Petino has brought into the school.  It’s also a group that will want to protect the University of Arkansas’ name from being dragged through the mud.  As a prominent booster of another school told me last week, “Usually the ‘he wins’ crowd holds sway over the ‘he’s damaged our good name’ crowd.”  That said, some/many/all of these people might be so ticked that Petrino lied to them and put them into this mess that they’re ready to part with him regardless of the fallout.

7.  The school’s biggest boosters.  Long and Arkansas are raising money with ease these days.  A new football facility is going up thanks to Petrino’s on-field success.  If the biggest boosters at the school threaten to hold back some of their cash pending the outcome of the Petrino scandal, that’s an additional headache for Long.  And it’s likely that some of the biggest boosters will want the coach to stay while a few others might worry more about UA’s reputation.  Long probably won’t get 100% backing from the Razorbacks’ top boosters regardless of what he decides to do.

At this point, like Long, you should probably be keeping tabs on the police investigation into this matter.  If heads roll and charges are filed on that front, Petrino’s probably finished.

If the police investigation yields no further damage, we at MrSEC.com expect the school will do everything possible to keep the coach in the fold, double-standards be damned.

A couple of sidenotes on the situation this morning:

* Robbie Neiswanger of ArkansasNews.com writes that Long is in new territory with this mess.

* “Team Petrino” has formed as a support group for the coach and has launched a Facebook page calling for the school to keep him.  They’re also planning a Monday rally for Petrino.  (See all that stuff about double-standards above.  Gotta wonder how many of these “Team Petrino” folks have ripped, Clinton, Gingrich, Pitino, Woods and others?)

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Arkansas’ Wade Apologizes For Hit That Led To Ejection

Freshman receiver Marquel Wade — ejected from Saturday’s game with Vanderbilt after delivering a helmet-to-helmet shot to a defenseless punt returner and then celebrating the hit — apologized during Bobby Petrino’s weekly press conference today.

According to Robbie Neiswanger of ArkansasNews.com, Wade said, “I was wrong.  I thought he had the ball.”  When asked about the little hopstep he made as bobbed to the sideline post-hit, Wade said, “I thought I just made a good play.  That’s all I can say about that.”

Wade also apologized for any embarrassment he act may have caused the Arkansas program.

Wade’s apology is a step in the right direction.  We don’t believe the young man should be suspended for the remainder of the season, booted from the Arkansas team, or drawn and quartered as some have suggested.  (The drawing and quartering is an exaggeration, for you literalists out there.)

But we do feel — as we stated earlier today — that he should receive a full-game suspension from the SEC for his hit.  It was the kind of play that needs to be held up to all league players as an example of what not to do.

An inch or two this way or that way and we could be talking about a very serious injury today.  For Vandy’s Jonathan Krause or for Wade.  The league must crackdown on players launching themselves to make helmet-to-helmet hits.

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Arkansas Chancellor Says There’s No Expansion Vote Scheduled Yet

Arkansas chancellor David Gearhart had no news to share on a SEC possible expansion vote when he spoke with Robbie Neiswanger of ArkansasNews.com yesterday:


“(Texas A&M) notified their conference that they want out.  And they’ve made no bones about the fact they want to come to the SEC.  But I don’t think… well, I know… there hasn’t been an invitation.  I think that remains to be seen.  There’s not any meetings scheduled at this point.

Of course there could be a called meeting at some point.  But right now, I don’t have anything on my calendar so I think it’s just wait and see at this point.”


Gearhart also talked about Texas A&M being a “great university” and “one of the best public research universities in the country.”  But…


“I think we have to be careful that it doesn’t affect revenue and it could be a revenue enhancement and that would probably be good.  And of course it depends on the school.  We would want to have a prestigious school, an institution that would be of the same caliber and certainly A&M is.”


Gearhart also got into the question of 13 schools versus 14:


“It could be done with 13, but it would be so much easier to go to 14.  Who that would be hasn’t even been openly discussed.”

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Arkansas Doesn’t Want Gridders Eating Like Pigs, Gives Them Etiquette Training

Bobby Petrino isn’t just putting his players through the usual summer workouts this year.  No, he’s also making sure they’re buttoned up at the dining room table.

According to Robbie Neiswanger of ArkansasNews.com, UA’s football players “gathered together for an etiquette dinner designed to help them learn proper practices, procedures and techniques to be comfortable in formal dinner or buffet settings.”

Assistant AD Eric Wood says the training table, er, training is designed to make sure the players are good Hogs on the field and off it:


“Executives, whether it’s in the National Football League or if it’s for a corporate job, are using a meal as an opportunity as part of the interview process.  (Petrino) knows that people come from varying backgrounds on the team.  So he wanted to make sure that those guys in that situation are comfortable.”


Nothing wrong with that.  In fact, we suggest Petrino use the following short film as an aid, too.





No one wants to be a Mr. Bungle. 

At least Petrino isn’t having to teach shower etiquette.

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Hogs’ Powell Has Surgery On Foot

Arkansas forward Marshawn Powell underwent surgery on his injured left foot yesterday, but Razorback officials remain hopeful that he will be back to normal later this summer.

According to Robbie Neiswanger of ArkansasNews.com, Powell’s surgery was tied to an injury he suffered this spring after new coach Mike Anderson’s arrival.  The injury is not expected to slow him in the fall.

The junior has had his share of injuries.  He was limited during preseason practices before his freshman year due to a broken hand.  As a sophomore he struggled to recover from a broken bone in his foot that he suffered while playing pickup basketball during the offseason.

His current injury is projected to sideline him for six to eight weeks.

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Pelphrey Under Fire; Anderson Dodges Questions About Arkansas

It appears the situation in Arkansas is becoming more precarious for Razorbacks coach John Pelphrey.  Attendance is way down.  The school is losing money on basketball.  ESPN analyst Doug Gottlieb said this week that the UA job was coming open.  And just yesterday, someone placed a $3,200 ad in The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette calling on Hogs fans to make their displeasure with the program known.

Yikes. 

Pelphrey said yesterday that he’s focusing on Arkansas’ final regular-season game against Ole Miss and not newspaper ads.  “I try to eliminate worry.  No matter what it is, I’m going to stay focused on the task at hand.  I will refuse to be distracted.”

That won’t be easy.  Missouri’s Mike Anderson — who Gottlieb tabbed as UA’s top choice to replace Pelphrey — is already taking questions about the Arkansas job.  He’s also dodging them rather than answering them:

“I’m here,” Anderson told The Kansas City Star when asked about UA’s gig.  “We’re talking about Kansas.  We’re getting ready for Kansas.  We’ve got a big game coming up.”

The former Nolan Richardson assistant at Arkansas turned down a $2.1 million offer from Georgia two years ago to remain at Missouri.  He currently makes about $1.55 million per year in a seven-year pact with the Tigers.

There are other distractions for Pelphrey as well.  ArkansasNews.com acquired — via the Freedom of Information Act — a number of UA documents and emails dealing with the coach’s future.  Robbie Neiswanger sums up those communications:


One particular fan e-mail, dated Feb. 11, was originally addressed to Board of Trustees member John Tyson.

The note read that “although Coach Pelphrey seems to be a nice man, our fans deserve a better approach on the court.”  The fan added he had “never seen such apathy” as there is now.

According to documents, Tyson forwarded the note to Long with a message that read: “Starting to see a lot of these but I think this one reflects the love folks have for the Hogs and all programs not just football.”

Long responded with: “Thanks for sharing.  I am getting quite a few as well but not overwhelming.  That same group sends after each loss.”


Long “couldn’t be reached for comment” regarding the ad placed in The Democrat-Gazette.  In general, Long has remained mostly silent on the Pelphrey front in recent weeks, which might not be a good sign for the coach.  Last year, Long defended his coach as Joe Alleva and Eric Hyman have defended Trent Johnson and Darrin Horn this season. 

As fans in the Natural State continue to debate Pelphrey’s future, we’ll close with the obvious — the coach needs a win at Ole Miss tomorrow and then a nice deep tourney run in Atlanta to help his cause.

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Georgia beats Tech; Arkansas, Vandy ready for the road

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SEC: Is Cameron Newton the greatest collegian ever?

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Content provided by John Clay’s Sidelines.

(AP photo)

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SEC links for Sunday:

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