Jeff Long

Jeff Long the one getting cheated in Petrino scandal

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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.

Mark Dantonio ‘disappointed’ watching Connor Cook’s draft free fall

EAST LANSING, MI - NOVEMBER 14: Head coach Mark Dantonio and Connor Cook #18 of the Michigan State Spartans look on during the game against the Maryland Terrapins at Spartan Stadium on November 14, 2015 in East Lansing, Michigan. Michigan State defeated Maryland 24-7. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
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Every year a player falls unexpectedly in the draft, and this year’s poster boy, aside from Laremy Tunsil‘s gas mask bong and Confederate flag imbroglio, on that front was Connor Cook.

The former Michigan State quarterback was thought by some to have a chance at landing toward the end of the first round, with most seeing him scooped up before the end of the second round. Instead, Cook watched as 99 other players, including six fellow quarterbacks, were selected before hearing his name called by the Oakland Raiders in the fourth round.

It was a mighty tumble for a prospect whose biggest flaw, according to draftniks, was leadership — he famously wasn’t elected as a captain of the Spartans in the preseason, which some considered quite revealing, and damning, for a three-year starter at quarterback.

As hard as it was on Cook, it was just as hard on his former head coach. After watching Cook lead his Spartans to a 34-5 record as a starter the last three years, Mark Dantonio found it difficult to digest his former player’s free fall.

“I was probably living through the entire thing, as well, watched the entire draft,” Dantonio said by way of mlive.com. “I was disappointed. I think that Connor is an excellent football player. He’s done a tremendous job for us here and for his football team, and a lot of that success that we’ve had can be credited to his play and his leadership on our football team. …

“I think it did wear on him as time went on, but he tried to continue to stay above it. I remember when Kirk Cousins was drafted and he was really disappointed in the fact that he had gone in the fourth round and they had drafted a guy in the second round and the first round, and what did that do for his future.”

Speaking of Cousins, the Washington Redskins quarterback who supplanted former Heisman winner Robert Griffin III as the starter, he offered up some encouragement to his fellow Spartan.

Four Auburn Tigers arrested for pot possession

AUBURN, AL - NOVEMBER 28:  Richard Mullaney #16 of the Alabama Crimson Tide fails to pull in this reception against Carlton Davis #18 of the Auburn Tigers at Jordan Hare Stadium on November 28, 2015 in Auburn, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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With another weekend in the books, it’s time to, once again, reset ye olde arrest ticker.

The latest football program to send the tracker back to double zeroes is Auburn, with the Opelika-Auburn News reporting that four Tigers football players, defensive end Byron Cowart, defensive back Carlton Davis, wide receiver Ryan Davis and defensive back Jeremiah Dinson, were arrested by the Auburn police department late Saturday night.  According to the News, all four were arrested on a single charge each of second-degree possession of marijuana.

The papers write that “[s]econd degree marijuana possession is listed under Alabama Code – Section 13A-12-214 as a person who commits the crime if said person possesses marijuana for personal use only.”

Head coach Gus Malzahn told the News that he is “aware of the situation and we will handle this matter appropriately.”

The defensive back Davis is the most noteworthy of the pot-smoking foursome.  As a true freshman in 2015, he started at corner for the Tigers and led all SEC freshmen with three interceptions.  He was named to the SEC All-Freshman team at the end of the season.

Cowart, a five-star 2015 signee, played in all 13 games as a true freshman, while Dinson played in nine games in his first season with the Tigers.  The receiver Davis, also a true freshman, didn’t have a reception in 2015 but ran the ball twice for 20 yards.  Davis’ first college carry went for 28 yards.

ESPN tabs seven Big Ten games for primetime kickoffs

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - FEBRUARY 05:  A view of the logo during ESPN The Party on February 5, 2016 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Mike Windle/Getty Images for ESPN)
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Mark your calendars, because these are only five months away! (/sobs)

ESPN on Monday announced seven Big Ten games that’ll kick off in primetime, either on ABC, ESPN or ESPN2, this upcoming season. Not surprisingly, six of the seven feature either Ohio State or Michigan. The list:

Oct. 8: Michigan at Rutgers (7 p.m. or 8 p.m. ET)
Oct. 15: Ohio State at Wisconsin (8 p.m. ET)
Oct. 22: Ohio State at Penn State (8 p.m. ET)
Oct. 29: Northwestern at Ohio State (5:30 p.m. ET)
Oct. 29: Nebraska at Wisconsin (7 p.m. ET)
Nov. 5: Nebraska at Ohio State (8 p.m. ET)
Nov. 12: Michigan at Iowa (7 p.m. or 8 p.m. ET)

Noticeably absent from this list is Michigan State, though the Big Ten has a deal with Fox, too, meaning the Spartans will almost certainly play in primetime at some point this season. Plus, Ohio State and Michigan equal ratings, no matter how good either team is (and both are expected to be pretty good this season, of course).

 

ECU transfer QB Kurt Benkert moves on to Virginia

In this photo taken Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2015 East Carolina quarterback Kurt Benkert rolls out to pass during NCAA college football practice in Greenville, N.C. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
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On April 25, East Carolina announced that Kurt Benkert had decided to transfer out of the Pirates football program.  Less than a week later, the quarterback has found himself a new football home.

On Twitter Sunday afternoon, Benkert confirmed that he will be enrolling at Virginia and continuing his collegiate playing career with the Cavaliers.  Beckert also acknowledged his decision in a text message to 247Sports.com.

“I’m really excited to be here,” Beckert said in a portion of the brief text.

As Beckert is headed to UVa. as a graduate transfer, he will be eligible to play for the Hoos immediately in 2016.  Not only that, but he will have two years of eligibility remaining.

Beckert was named the Pirates’ starter in early August of 2015, but sustained a right knee injury a couple of weeks later that knocked him out for the entire season.  In Charlottesville, Beckert will join a competition that includes returning starter Matt Johns and Texas/Arizona transfer Connor Brewer.