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Tonight the Bobby Petrino motorcycle ride from hell came to a close.
Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long wiped out Petrino in an emotional press conference that just ended. Before we analzye anything else, let me just say this, Jeff Long hit an absolute home run tonight. I’ve thought he was oneof the top athletic directors in the country before this evening, but he was spectacular tonight. He did what happens all too rarely in college athletics — he made the right decision even if it was the unpopular one.
Asked whether Petrino believed he was bigger than the program, Long responded with a terse, “Yes.”
That answer spoke volumes, Long believes Arkansas football is bigger than one man.
Bobby Petrino clearly didn’t.
It was that same hubris that led Petrino to take a 25 year old employee on a joy ride nine days ago, and it was that same hubris that led Petrino to believe he could lie to everyone for four days about circumstances surrounding his motorcycle accident.
Ultimately, Long made the right decision.
A decision that clearly left him emotionally shaken.
Some will ridicule Long breaking down midway through the press conference as he discussed informing the football team that he’d fired their coach, but I thought it proved how seriously he takes his job and how committed he is to doing the right things at Arkansas.
He did not enter in to this decision lightly. Especially because it was his decision to bring Petrino to Arkansas. But since Petrino had arrived Long had managed him perfectly, tied down Petrino to a long term deal, ended any chance of Bobby going rogue and jumping programs. But what he couldn’t control was Petrino’s personal life, a failing that is every bit as galling to Razorback fans as Clint Stoerner’s 1998 fumble.
Most college leaders talk a big game, but the vast majority turn tail when true decisions have to be made — sticking their fingers in to the air and gauging the prevailing winds of political opinion before miraculously siding with the masses — Long did the opposite. He did what was right, even if it flew in the face of popular expectation.
I’m not sure who Arkansas will hire as it’s next football coach, but I’m sure they have the right person heading up their athletic department.
When Arkansas truly needed a leader, it found one.
Losing Petrino will be tough, but finding a true leader is tougher.
Long is that leader.
What else did we learn from the just completed press conference.
Tonight Long made that official stating in no uncertain terms that he’d terminated Petrino with cause.
How did he notify Petrino?
So Petrino, who left the Atlanta Falcons via a note in the locker room, was fired by letter a few years later.
Coaching karma is real.
2. Long informed us that Petrino’s relationship with Jessica Dorrell had been ongoing for “a significant period of time.”
What’s more, that Petrino’s behavior was “reckless and unacceptable” and further evidence of Petrino’s “manipulative, deceiving behavior.”
Let’s just say this, Long did not pull many punches in his press conference tonight.
He made it clear that he didn’t want to fire Petrino, but that the facts and his responsibilities necessitated he do so.
3. Long also said that Dorrell was one of 159 applicants for the job she received.
He also confirmed our OKTC report from Sunday when he said Petrino violated the school’s employment handbook by failing to notify anyone of his relationship, a clear conflict that he was bound to disclose in writing to Long.
Dorrell was one of three finalists who interviewed for the jobs and Petrino was there for the interviews, selecting his mistress to join his staff.
As if that wasn’t enough, Long also informed everyone that Petrino had given Dorrell $20,000.
Do we have another Rick Pitino situation? Perhaps. Long declined to discuss what that money was used for or whether or not Dorrell would remain on staff going forward. But it seems unlikely that this money was for grad school tuition or the humane society.
4. Who should Arkansas hire now?
Long said, “We can command a high-level football coach.”
But he declined to say whether or not he would have an interim coach for a season or hire a new coach before the season begins.
Arkansas has a great team returning in 2012, so you’d think it would be an attractive job for someone.
I’ll toss out a few names now and break them down in greater detail tomorrow.
For now, here are ten names that would be on my list in no particular order:
Louisville’s Charlie Strong
Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen
Vandy’s James Franklin
Arkansas State’s Gus Malzahn
Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart
UAB coach Garrick McGee
West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen
USF coach Skip Holtz.
Deposed North Carolina coach Butch Davis will get some attention, but I don’t believe Long will hire a coach coming off serious NCAA issues who was already fired for lying to his bosses.
Want a wildly outside the box idea? Would former Arkansas player and NFL head coach Jimmy Johnson come back to college for a year? Would Sean Payton?
Would any of these coaches come before the 2012 season is complete? That seems doubtful for the head coaches.
But that’s for the future to decide and we’ll break down the pros and cons of all these guys tomorrow.
For now, let’s give credit where credit is due, Jeff Long made the right but unpopular call.
At a time when many coaches have bosses in name only, Long showed Petrino who the boss truly was.
And that the Arkansas football program is much bigger than Bobby Petrino.
OKTC’s coverage of l’affaire Petrino.