Jeff Long the one getting cheated in Petrino scandal

33 Comments

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.

Heisman winner Chris Weinke hired as Tennessee’s running backs coach

Getty Images
2 Comments

It can be argued that the only reason Tennessee has a national championship is because of Chris Weinke. As we know, the Vols claimed the 1998 national championship by defeating Florida State in the 1999 Fiesta Bowl, the first national championship game of the BCS era. Tennessee won that game, 23-16, thanks in large part to a pick-six thrown by Marcus Outzen, a third-string quarterback forced into action due to an injury by the two signal callers ahead of him on the depth chart.

Here’s how a Sports Illustrated article described Weinke and that FSU team in its 1999 preview issue:

Don’t think of 1999 as a new season for Florida State, think of it as the resumption of an old one. Before quarterback Chris Weinke was dumped on his head and suffered a season-ending ruptured disk in his neck in a 45-14 win over Virginia last Nov. 7, no team in the country was playing better than the Seminoles, who had bounced back from an early-season defeat at North Carolina State. So how cruel was this? Upset losses suffered by Ohio State, UCLA and Kansas State sent 11-1 Florida State to the national title game in the Fiesta Bowl, but without its best quarterback. The Seminoles and backup signal-caller Marcus Outzen struggled on offense and lost to Tennessee.

Nevertheless, Tennessee won that season’s title, Weinke would lead Florida State to the 1999 national title and take the Heisman Trophy a year after that. The past is the past.

But now the past is the present, as the former Florida State quarterback on Wednesday was announced as Tennessee’s running backs coach.

“I’m excited to have Chris Weinke on our staff to coach running backs,” Vols head coach Jeremy Pruitt said in a statement. “He has played the game at the highest level and what he has accomplished on the field speaks for itself. He is also an outstanding coach and teacher of the game, coaching in the NFL, in college this past season and at the high school level. He has a great eye for talent and knows the game on the offensive side of the ball as well as anybody I’ve been around. He will be a great fit for our Tennessee program.”

Weinke entered the NFL as a 26-year-old and lasted seven seasons with the Panthers and 49ers before moving into coaching. He first worked as a trainer at IMG Academy, then moved onto coaching the high school program, where he went 19-2 as head coach and offensive coordinator. From there he deposited a stint as the Los Angeles Rams’ quarterbacks coach before spending the 2017 season as an offensive analyst at Alabama, where he hooked up with Pruitt.

Weinke will be charged with re-building the Vols’ backfield after losing John Kelly to an early entry into the NFL draft. Rising sophomore Ty Chandler is Tennessee’s leading returning rusher, carrying 71 times for 305 yards and two touchdowns in 2017.

Report: starting West Virginia defensive lineman Adam Shuler leaving to pursue career in track

Getty Images
Leave a comment

You don’t see this happen too often.

Citing multiple sources, Mike Casazza of EerSports.com is reporting that West Virginia defensive lineman Adam Shuler is no longer a member of the Mountaineers football team.  A team official stated the redshirt sophomore “is reportedly pursuing a career in track and field,” Casazza wrote.

It’s unclear whether the track & field pursuit would take place at WVU or at another university.

According to Shuler’s bio on the team’s official website, he finished runner-up as a high school senior in the discus at the Florida state track & field championships.  He finished third in the same event as a sophomore.

Shuler, a three-star member of the Mountaineers’ 2015 recruiting class, started 10 games this past season.  However, on the most recent depth chart, he’s listed as the backup to Ezekiel Rose at one of the defensive end spots.

In 12 games, Shuler’s three sacks were tied for third on the team while his eight tackles for loss were good for solo third.

East Carolina grad transfer QB Gardner Minshew will reportedly visit Alabama this weekend

Getty Images
1 Comment

It appears the Jalen Hurts Transfer Protection Plan™ is close to being implemented.

Earlier this month, it was reported that Alabama had an interest in Gardner Minshew, the quarterback who announced late last month that he had withdrawn from East Carolina to tend to a personal matter in his home state of Mississippi.  That interest has ramped up since as al.com is reporting that Minshew will be visiting the Crimson Tide’s campus this weekend.

As a graduate transfer, Minshew would be eligible to play immediately this season at UA, or any other FBS program for that matter.

Alabama’s interest in a grad transfer at the position will do nothing to quell the rumors that Hurts, the starter for each of the last 29 games over the past two seasons, is a potential candidate for a transfer. Hurts was benched in favor of Tua Tagovailoa in the national championship game, with the true freshman’s comeback heroics signaling a likely changing of the guard under center.

As for Minshew, he started five games for the Pirates last season, throwing for 2,140 yards, 16 touchdowns and seven interceptions in completing just over 57 percent of his 304 pass attempts. Prior to his departure from ECU, he was penciled in as the Pirates’ 2018 starting quarterback.

Wake Forest WR Greg Dortch cleared for spring practice

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Unlike how his 2017 season ended, Greg Dortch‘s 2018 offseason is trending much more positively.

In Wake Forest’s late-October win over Louisville, Dortch went down with what turned out to be a season-ending abdominal injury. Four months after sustaining the injury, and with spring practice right around the corner, the wide receiver has been medically cleared to fully participate in practice.

Despite missing the last month of the regular season as well as the postseason, Dortch still led the Demon Deacons in receiving yards with 722. His 53 receptions and nine receiving touchdowns were tied for tops on the team as well.

In the game in which he was injured, he set the school record with four touchdown catches.