Jeff Long

Jeff Long the one getting cheated in Petrino scandal


Sitting in front of rolling cameras and eager reporters tweeting away on their mobile devices, Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long held what had to be the toughest press conference of his four years in Fayetteville.

His coach… his big hire… Bobby Petrino, had flat-out lied to him.

Petrino was involved in what was reported to be a one-man motorcycle accident on Sunday evening. A statement released by the university Monday assured the incident “involved no other individuals.” As we found out yesterday, that wasn’t the case. A police report mentioned that a female passenger by the name of Jessica Dorrell was on the motorcycle with Petrino when it crashed at approximately 6:45 on that fateful Sunday.

As far as anyone can infer, Dorrell flagged down help and Petrino was eventually admitted to a hospital while she was dropped off at her car so that she could leave, unharmed.

But what Dorrell lacked in bumps and bruises, Petrino more than made up for when he failed to inform Long or the media of Dorrell’s presence at the scene of the accident. In a few days, the focus shifted from relief that Petrino was going to be okay, to interest in new details not previously known.

And, so, Long called a press conference for 9:45 on Thursday night to address what couldn’t wait until morning. He walked in the room, sat down and clearly stated what he had heard from Petrino just hours before: that there was someone else, that the coach had not been completely forthcoming earlier in the week. Long didn’t make bad jokes wishing Petrino wouldn’t fire him, nor did he make excuses. He answered questions, but didn’t jump to conclusions about Petrino’s future. Instead, Long promised a deliberate review of the situation while Petrino was placed on paid administrative leave.

In short, Long handled it like a pro. That’s certainly more than you can say for Petrino, who has placed a wall of lies between him and his superior. And Petrino’s on the wrong side. Again.

Long deserves better than that, especially for facing the music when an employee could not. “Certainly I’m disappointed,” Long said. “I brought him [Petrino] here.”

He can ask the coach to leave too. Petrino’s contract with the University of Arkansas states the coach could be fired or punished for “engaging in conduct, as solely determined by the University, which is clearly contrary to the character and responsibilities of a person occupying the position of Head Football Coach or which negatively or adversely affects the reputation of the University or UAF’s athletics programs in any way.”

But this is where the situation gets murky. Face value tells us Petrino violated some ethical conduct code by doing what many of us assume he’s doing — cheating on his wife with Dorrell. We don’t know that for sure — not yet, anyway — and Petrino has only referenced a “previous inappropriate relationship” that leaves a thing or two to the imagination, but it’s the details of “previous” and “relationship” that could get Petrino fired.

As ArkansasSports360 pointed out today, Dorrell, a former UA volleyball player, was hired as the new student-athlete development coordinator for football on March 28, four days before the April Fools’ Day motorcycle accident, and a week before Long sat at a podium realizing the prank had been played on him.

Long had been lied to by his coach and a woman with whom Petrino had a “previous inappropriate relationship” now had a job within the football program.

That’s cold. That’s “clearly contrary to the character and responsibilities of a person occupying the position of Head Football Coach.” That “negatively or adversely affects the reputation of the University.”

And, for that, Petrino probably should be fired.

Jim Tressel? Fired because he lied. Bruce Pearl? Fired because he lied. And just think: those coaches had leashes. Long hired Petrino in 2007 as the coach was evading verbal — and, perhaps in some cases, actual — Molotov cocktails on his way out of Atlanta and the Falcons organization.

Now, the other stuff? The “inappropriate” part of the relationship? It’s deplorable if true, but in no way does it affect Petrino’s ability to coach his players. Bobby Petrino was hired to do two things — three if you include staying out of NCAA trouble — win games and graduate his players. So far he’s done both.

Nowhere in Petrino’s contract does it state he has to be a good husband (and keep in mind, I’m not saying he did anything to break the sanctity of his marriage), or even be a good person. A former NFL player whose name escapes me now once said this about character:

“There are two kinds of character. Your off-the-field character, and the character you have with your teammates and coaches.”

There have been plenty of comments over the past day about what is “expected” of Petrino. First of all, if you “expected” anything from Petrino from an ethics standpoint to begin with, I’d check the magnets in your moral compass. But this isn’t about how Petrino acts in his private life, or whether he practices what he preaches. Rather, it’s about what is expected of him in a business environment.

“We have high expectations for our coaches,” Long explained.

Those are the expectations Petrino failed to meet for an athletic director who stuck his neck out and made a highly controversial hire early in his tenure.

Now, it’s Long who has to decide if success is enough to keep Petrino employed. It’s Long who has to contemplate if he can ever trust Petrino again.

It’s Long who’s getting cheated.

Steve Spurrier discusses retirement; Gamecocks name Shawn Elliott interim coach

Steve Spurrier

Odds are pretty good Steve Spurrier has coached his final game as the Head Ball Coach, but Spurrier let it be known he is not going to go away quite as easily as you might think. Spurrier addressed the media today as South Carolina made its transition between coaches official. Spurrier noted he is resigning as head coach, but he is not necessarily retiring. As previously reported, Shawn Elliott will take on the role as interim head coach of the Gamecocks effective immediately.

The first thing Spurrier wants to remind everybody is he is not retiring. This is simply a resignation from his current position. Spurrier left the door open to possible options down the road for him in his post-coaching career. The idea of Spurrier walking away from the football world never to be heard from again is a startling one, so it is good to know he is not going to let that happen.

“College football is a game of recruiting, as well know,” Spurrier said when assessing why it was right for him to leave his job now. “That’s another reason I need to move on. I don’t know if coaching is completely over or not. It is fun being on a team. I might be a consultant for someone. I doubt if I’ll be a head coach again, but who knows?”

Spurrier said he realized Sunday the time to walk away was now and explained he always knew he would need to step aside the moment he saw himself holding the program back. That echoes the sentiment he has shared over the years, especially when asked about coaches like Joe Paterno and Bobby Bowden as they each got up in the years. This season South Carolina is off to a 2-4 start, so the writing was on the wall for Spurrier, who also said it was in the best interests for all if an inevitable change was handled immediately.

“We’ve slipped. It’s my fault. I’m the head coach,” Spurrier said of South Carolina’s recent struggles.”We haven’t lost it. We’ve got a dang good team.”

“Our team is not in shambles despite what some might say,” Elliott said when he was given a chance to speak to the media. “We’re going to do everything we can to make the University of South Carolina proud of this football program.”

Elliott will now have the rest of the season to show what he can do as a head coach, and he knows this will be a bit of an open audition for the job as South Carolina starts searching for its next head coach.

Mark Dantonio quickly tosses aside South Carolina discussion

Mark Dantonio

Michigan State has become a national power under the coaching of Mark Dantonio. The grizzled and confident coach has put together a master plan in East Lansing and has taken the Spartans to the top of the Big Ten along the way, capturing a Big Ten title and victories in the Cotton Bowl and Rose Bowl as well as in-state dominance over the Michigan Wolverines. Danotnio is preparing his Spartans to take on the Wolverines this week, but with the new vacancy opening up at South Carolina following the sudden retirement of Steve Spurrier, Dantonio has already been presented with the question about his thoughts on coaching at South Carolina.

He did not seem all that interested in discussing the vacancy when meeting with Michigan State media this morning.

“Coach Spurrier’s had an outstanding career there, it’s alma mater, and we’re here to talk about Michigan,” Dantonio said when asked about it today. Video below from the Big Ten Network

Dantonio played defensive back for the Gamecocks in the mid 1970s, which helps make Dantonio an interesting name to mention in any coaching future discussion out of Columbia. While Dantonio may have played at South Carolina for Jim Carlen, Dantonio grew up in Ohio and has coached the bulk of his career within Ohio and the Big Ten. He is also one win away from picking up his 100th career coaching victory, 81 of which have come at Michigan State.