When Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long made the decision to fire coach Bobby Petrino earlier this week, he surely considered what he was putting at risk. The Razorbacks had several key starters returning for 2012 and expectations were, and are, high. Now, what was a likely preseason top 5 squad doesn’t have a head coach for the immediate future.
As sobering as that is, running back Knile Davis said he supported Long during the process.
“I think he made the right decision for the program,” Davis said of Long. “I really do. I didn’t think [Petrino] was going to be fired, but of course it wasn’t up to me. You just have to move on.”
Senior quarterback Tyler Wilson echoed Davis’ sentiment.
“lt it was important that I sit down with the guys and calm them down,” said Wilson. “It wasn’t a pep talk; it was about the spotlight being on us and it’s how we respond to it. We need to use this as an opportunity rather than an excuse. That’s how my family has preached to me and it has always turned out in positive. I’m going to use this time to step up my leadership and I asked to do so as well.”
In all, the players and coaches at Arkansas appear focused — or, at least that’s what they’re letting on. You have to give credit to guys like Davis and Wilson; they’re senior leaders who know how to project confidence when things go awry.
And, guaranteed, no one has felt that awkwardness more than offensive coordinator Paul Petrino, who is torn between supporting his brother and going to work everyday.
“He’s having a hard time and that’s just a deal where I have to love him and understand that,” said Petrino of his now-unemployed brother. “But I have to come here and do my job, work hard, take care of my family and do everything I can to coach Tyler Wilson and this offense to be the best that they can be.”
It’s a tough situation for everyone involved, and again, I’m sure it’s something Long thought about over the past week. Even in the right — the only — decision, Long’s move to fire Petrino has tremendous consequences.
(Hat tip: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette)