Making the case to keep Bobby Petrino

64 Comments

Tomorrow — or, if you’re reading this Sunday morning, today — marks one week since Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino was in a motorcycle accident with UA football employee Jessica Dorrell. And for the past few days since a police report exposed what points to being an affair with Dorrell, there have been numerous calls for Petrino’s resignation/firing.

Some think Petrino didn’t uphold a moral or ethical standard that’s expected of him, but the consensus is that the more significant crime is the cover up that spilled over to the workplace. Petrino lied to his boss, athletic director Jeff Long (pictured), by withholding information about Dorrell and put UA in an HR bind by possibly committing a quid pro quo with Dorrell, who was hired to her current job on March 28.

That sounds like beyond reasonable grounds for termination to me, but admittedly, I’m sitting behind a computer screen in Texas. If the decision to fire Petrino was that easy, it would have been done by now.

Long said Thursday night when he placed Petrino on paid administrative leave that he would go through a deliberate review of the situation before making a conclusion. On Saturday, a UA spokesperson released a statement from Long, which states the following:

“The [Petrino] review is ongoing and will continue throughout the weekend.”

So, what’s Long thinking about? Take a look at an article by Chris Bahn of ArkansasSports360 (Here’s a link)It might be the most spot-on glance to date into what Long is considering as he deliberates whether he should can Petrino or not.

This goes beyond the $3.56 million Arkansas has invested in Petrino annually until 2017. That’s pocket change compared to the other financials that have to be considered.

Even without actually winning a BCS bowl, the SEC or the SEC West, Petrino has managed to increase fan buy-in, something that has helped the Razorback football program see a 59-percent increase in value since 2009. Forbes estimated last year that Arkansas football is valued at $89 million.

Don’t forget the substantial investment Long and Arkansas have in Petrino’s football operations center. Shortly after being hired Petrino began asking for a new facility, one that began with a $20 million estimate, but has now grown to $40 million (and climbing).

Construction has begun on the 80,000-square foot facility. Fundraising is ongoing.

Keep this in mind: just because money is pledged for the facility doesn’t mean the UA has the cash in hand. Bonds were purchased so construction could begin, but the debt for the building isn’t totally covered.

Petrino’s value to the program is more than just 8.5 wins per year in the toughest division in college football. It’s the wealth of everything that goes along with those wins.

But does that give Petrino freedom to do what he wants?

As a boss, it has to be a disheartening feeling to know your employee lied/withheld important information from you — yes, it was important; see Arkansas’ release on Monday — and was perfectly content doing so. It has to be equally frustrating to think Petrino would hire someone he was possibly fooling around with.

That’s a lot of dishonesty at one time. If Long could get rid of Petrino and not lose a beat in fundraising efforts while being simultaneously guaranteed a capable replacement to lead the Hogs into the future, there’s no doubt he would.

It’s not that simple.

Long is facing a business decision, and while Petrino’s actions have more than merited a firing, doing so without considering the cost of the alternative would be an emotional decision. Last time someone at UA made an emotional decision, he and his 25-year-old subordinate got in a motorcycle accident.

So what Long has to weigh is the worth of success vs. the worth of trust. I don’t know the answer, but I sure as hell know I do not envy Long for being forced to figure it out.

Arizona State, Mississippi State ink home-and-home

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Arizona State and Mississippi State on Tuesday announced a home-and-home series to be played in 2024-25. Arizona State will host the first game in Tempe on Sept. 7, 2024, and the clubs will meet in Starkville on Sept. 6, 2025.

The Sun Devils and Bulldogs have never met previously.

The Arizona State trip is not Mississippi State’s only upcoming trek from the Deep South to the Southwest. The Bulldogs also lined up a visit to Arizona in 2020 and Texas Tech in 2029. Mississippi State will open the 2024 season against Eastern Kentucky and visit Southern Miss the week after its Arizona State visit, on Sept. 14. The Bulldogs have no other games lined up in 2025 as of yet, according to FBSchedules.

Likewise, Mississippi State is not the Sun Devils’ lone upcoming SEC opponent. Arizona State has a home-and-home with LSU on the docket for 2026-28, per FBSchedules. The Mississippi State games complete both of the Sun Devils’ non-conference schedules for these respective seasons. Arizona State opens with Wyoming and visits Texas State in 2024, and hosts Northern Arizona and Texas State in 2025.

UCLA lands Texas Tech graduate transfer OL Justin Murphy

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Help is on the way for Chip Kelly‘s offensive line. One graduate transfer offensive lineman has the Bruins on his list, but another has already pulled the trigger for UCLA.

Texas Tech graduate transfer Justin Murphy on Tuesday committed to UCLA in a post on his Twitter account.

A native of Belton, Texas, Murphy signed with Texas Tech in 2014 and made four starts at right guard as a redshirt freshman. He again started four games at right guard in ’15 before moving out to tackle, where he started another four games. But after battling a series of knee injuries, Murphy announced in the middle of the 2016 season he had medically retired from the game.

After sitting out 2017, Murphy announced in March he planned to make a comeback.

UCLA remarkably started the same offensive linemen in all 13 games last season, but tackle Kolton Miller entered the NFL draft, guard Najoee Toran and center Scott Quessenberry graduated.

Toledo posts, then deletes, tweet offering to change mascot to Shrek

Getty Images
Leave a comment

There are plenty of annoying trends on Twitter, but perhaps the worst is the “I’ll do X if this gets retweeted X-thousand amount of times.” I blame Wendy’s.

But blanket policies are never a good way to go through life, and an exception was made on Tuesday when Toledo offered to change its mascot from a rocket to Shrek with 500,000 retweets.

Sadly, some dreams are simply too beautiful to live in this fallen world, and the tweet was outed to be a hoax. “We are definitely not changing the school mascot to Shrek,” Toledo media relations specialist Christine Billau told USA Today. “The tweet was meant to be fun, but it caused too much of a distraction.”

Meanwhile, Bowling Green gleefully hopped on the dog pile with both elbows pointed out.

UMass grad transfer lineman narrows choices to Auburn, UCLA, USC

UMass athletics
Leave a comment

It’s not yet known to where Jack Driscoll will transfer, but the field has been significantly narrowed.

Earlier this offseason, Driscoll decided to transfer from UMass.  Tuesday, the offensive tackle confirmed to Rivals.com that he’s down to three schools as a potential landing spot — Auburn, UCLA and USC.

Neither football program will have to wait long for a decision as Driscoll expects to make an announcement Wednesday.  Driscoll had taken an official visit to all three of the campuses prior to whittling down his transfer to-do list.

“It will come down to one of those three schools,” the lineman told AuburnSports.com. “I feel like all three of the schools would be a good fit.”

Driscoll will graduate from UMass early next month, and will be eligible to play immediately in 2018 at whichever program he selects.  The upcoming season will be the first of two years of eligibility the 6-5, 294-pound lineman has remaining.

After starting eight games as a redshirt freshman in 2016, with most of those starts coming at left guard, he started all 12 games in 2017.  All of those starts this past season came at right tackle for the football-independent Minutemen. He was named to Phil Steele’s All-Independent first team while he earned second-team All-Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) honors for good measure.