Making the case to keep Bobby Petrino

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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.

WATCH: Ole Miss Baker Mayfields its flag on Mississippi State’s field

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Talk about adding insult to injury.

Heading into Week 13, three-loss Mississippi State, ranked 14th in the latest College Football Playoff rankings for whatever reason, was a 16-point favorite over Egg Bowl rival Ole Miss for Thursday night’s game in Starkville.  The loss of starting quarterback Nick Fitzgerald to a gruesome first-half injury all but sealed the Bulldogs’ fate; A.J. Brown‘s all-game production proved to be the dagger in sealing that fate, putting an exclamation point on the Rebels’ third win in the in-state rivalry the last four years.

As to how it all ties in to the lede?  The visiting Rebels decided to go all Baker Mayfield on Stark Vegas’ midfield after the win…

… not long after the same player who planted the flag hiked his leg like a dog, feigning urinating on the Vaught–Hemingway Stadium field.

There could very well be two different coaches in charge when the next Egg Bowl rolls around, but this will always be, regardless of who is on the sidelines, one of the most vitriolic rivalries in all of college sports.  Or sports, period.

A.J. Brown powers Ole Miss to Egg Bowl win over No. 15 Mississippi State

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No. 14 Mississippi State lost their quarterback, lost the game, lost the Egg Bowl trophy and lost a year’s worth of rivalry trash talk in one fell swoop on a chilly Thanksgiving evening at home. To add insult to injury, they lost all that at the hands of a Starkville native to boot as star receiver A.J. Brown powered Ole Miss to their sweetest victory of the year over their in-state rivals 31-28.

The Rebels needed just three plays and 39 seconds to open the scoring in what was perhaps the team’s best all-around game in several weeks, showing no signs of any tryptophan-induced sluggishness following a traditional turkey day meal. Brown finished the game with 167 yards receiving and a 77 yard touchdown to cap off a terrific return to his hometown in opposing colors, while tailback Jordan Wilkins also chipped in with another 110 yards and two scores on the ground to pace the offense.

The old Landshark defense also made an appearance, with the second worst team in all of FBS when it came to forcing turnovers managing to secure a whopping five turnovers and three sacks.

While the loss was undoubtedly disappointing for the Bulldogs, most of the team’s attention was on their star quarterback, Nick Fitzgerald. He entered the game on the verge of another 2,000 yard passing/1,000 yard rushing season but was tackled awkwardly on a three yard run early in the first quarter. Replays showed his ankle to be facing a much different direction than it should as part of a gruesome scene and the signal-caller was carted off to the team’s medical facilities shortly thereafter amid a raucous applause from fans on both sides.

Fitzgerald later returned to the sidelines to cheer on his teammates but it certainly appears that his promising season is over as Mississippi State turns their attention to a bowl game in the coming weeks.

Stepping in at quarterback was freshman Keytaon Thompson, who was much more of a threat with his legs than his arm until a few late drives. He finished the night with 195 yards, a touchdown, an interception and a team-high 121 yards rushing (with another score) in relief. Tailback Aeris Williams managed to rack up 82 yards and a score but faced a stacked line of scrimmage at every turn given the injury to his veteran teammate.

While the injury to Fitzgerald overshadowed the game, the backdrop of Ole Miss’ NCAA infractions case loomed large over the rivalry as much as the game itself. The two schools’ fan bases have been quite chippy and MSU linebacker Leo Lewis — a central figure in the case — was kept in check to the tune of two tackles and a half a sack as the Rebels didn’t attack him like some thought they would.

Perhaps more pressing to some Bulldogs fans is if that was the last Egg Bowl they would see with head coach Dan Mullen patrolling the sidelines. His name has been linked to openings at Florida, Tennessee, Nebraska and others in the past few weeks and there is a growing expectation that the most successful coach in school history could have just donned the maroon and white for the final time in a loss.

That’s of no concern across the way as interim coach Matt Luke did a good job rallying the team to their sixth win of the season. The Rebels are not bowl eligible as part of self-imposed sanctions but the satisfaction of beating their rivals probably takes the sting out of that fact just a little bit, especially with a Starkville native like Brown leading the way on Thursday night.

Mississippi State QB Nick Fitzgerald suffers gruesome ankle injury to spoil first half of the Egg Bowl

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The Egg Bowl has returned to Thanksgiving but the game hasn’t gone quite as planned for No. 14 Mississippi State, as they trail Ole Miss 10-6 after a low-scoring first half of play thanks to a shocking injury that brought both sides of the heated rivalry to their feet in unison.

That came early in the first quarter when Bulldogs quarterback Nick Fitzgerald was tackled after a three-yard run, suffering a gruesome ankle injury in the process that saw his foot point in a direction it certainly wasn’t supposed to. He was put in an air cast and carted off the field to perform x-rays immediately afterward and needless to say will not return to the game.

The productive signal-caller was just 1-of-5 passing with an interception and 16 yards rushing when he went down with the injury. Fitzgerald was approaching the 2,000 yard passing and 1,000 yard rushing marks for the season heading into the game and received plenty of support from his fellow football players around the SEC and beyond after suffering such a horrific-looking injury that appears to knock him out for the rest of 2017.

Freshman Keytaon Thompson replaced Fitzgerald behind center and went 3-of-5 passing for 32 yards and an interception. He’s known for his running ability at this stage and did manage a team-high 65 yards on the ground, including a 32 yard scamper. Running back Aeris Williams was fairly limited facing a stacked box against a new quarterback and ran for 41 yards in the half as turnovers (three of them) really hampered MSU in the half.

With Ole Miss ineligible for postseason play even if they won on Thursday night, it was not at all surprising to see the Rebels play better than they have in a long time. The team needed just three plays and 39 seconds on their opening possession to find the end zone and were punching far above their weight defensively too. Wide receiver A.J. Brown was the big play threat once again for the offense, with five catches and 90 yards after just a half of play. In the process, he set a new school single-season record for receiving yards and joined kicker Greg Wunderlich (all-time school leader in FG’s) in the record books for the visitors as they look to  get a little bit of payback for last year’s 55-20 loss in Oxford.

The two programs have split the last six meetings in the hotly contested Egg Bowl rivalry and both appear locked into another close one after a half of play. It’s too bad that an injury to an all-SEC player had to spoil things early on but both the Bulldogs and the Rebels will have to put that behind them as they emerge from the locker room hoping to secure a win after years worth of bad blood.

Odell Beckham Jr. gifts LSU players recently unveiled custom shoes ahead of regular season finale

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LSU has produced plenty of NFL stars in recent years but few identify with the Tigers quite like New York Giants wideout Odell Beckham Jr. does. The Baton Rouge native recently released his first “lifestyle” shoe with Nike last week and has been hitting the press circuit almost as hard as the rehab room as a result to showcase the new kicks.

Not one to forget where he went to school and blossomed into a first round pick, Beckham filmed a video for LSU’s football team this week and really gave the Tigers something to be thankful for on Thanksgiving by giving every player on the team a version of the shoe to wear when they’re suiting up in cleats.

The color isn’t quite a true match for LSU gold but it’s certainly pretty close and even comes with the longitude and latitude of Baton Rouge inscribed. You can probably bet that the team will be wearing them to Tiger Stadium prior to taking on Texas A&M on Saturday in the regular season finale for both sides.