published Wednesday, April 11th, 2012

5 at 10: Petrino's gone and Braves win

Don't forget about Friday's mailbag, we still have a couple of spots open.

From the "Talks Too Much Studios" here we go.

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    Arkansas football coach Bobby Petrino walks to the sideline as the Razorbacks took on Mississippi State during an NCAA college football game in Little Rock, Ark. Arkansas fired coach Petrino on Tuesday, April 10, 2012, publicly dressing him down for unfairly hiring his mistress and intentionally misleading his boss about everything from their relationship to her presence at the motorcycle accident that ultimately cost him his job. (AP Photo/El Dorado News-Times, Michael Orrell)
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Bye-bye Bobby

Arkansas canned Bobby Petrino on Tuesday. It's hard to disagree with Razorbacks athletic director Jeff Long's decision, too, after Petrino's off-the-field actions. (Background: Petrino had an affair with a 25-year-old former Arkansas volleyball player, helped her get a job within the Arkansas football offices, lied about said relationship, reportedly gave her $20K, was involved in a single-motorcycle accident in which his mistress was involved and lied to everyone within ear shot in an effort to cover it up. Caught up? Side note: There were questions about why we assumed there likely would be a sexual harassment suit at some point, and to put it plainly, if/when the affair ended — and it would have ended badly — there's always at least grounds/claims whether they are real or perceived for sexual harassment when the relationship involves superiors and subordinates. Always.)

Well, apparently Long and the Razorbacks said this was it, and good for them. Long, who looked noticeably worn down during the news conference, delivered the message clearly and cleanly about Petrino. In the end, the fractured trust between Petrino and a growing number of folks inside the Arkansas athletic department was too much to ignore. And with that, the book was closed on Bobby Petrino at Arkansas, a wildly successful ride ended in part by a wildly sketchy motorcycle ride, and all that is left this morning are more questions. Let's try to cover a few of them.

1) Who's next for Arkansas? Gus Malzahn's name has been tossed out. So has Butch Davis' and Garrick McGee's, although those last two seem like tough calls considering their recent troubles abiding within the rules/laws would be less than an ideal fit in the current state of the Arkansas program. If we were Jeff Long, we'd call Charlie Strong first and make him say no. Then we'd call Kirby Smart. There are going to be a lot of mentions of a slew of names — do they just go ahead and call Houston Nutt and get this over with? What about Tommy Tuberville in his run through the SEC West? Regardless who is the next coach, that's going to be a tough job. Think of it this way, even a pretty good hire drops them to the bottom half of the nation's toughest division. It's a tough spot for sure.

2) What's next for Petrino, the coach? Wow, it's hard to think that less than four months after leading the Hogs to a Cotton Bowl win and a No. 5 national ranking that Petrino is all-but-unhirable right now. But he is. It's hard to think that arguably the guy with the second-most secure coaching gig in the SEC and maybe the country is out of work. But he is. Dude can flat-out coach, there is no doubt, but combine the Jet-Gate thing a few years ago, the normal lies he told to Louisville's administration, the way he skipped out on the Falcons in the middle of the night after 13 games and leaving notes on the players' lockers, and now this. Petrino is the coaching version of Nixon. He's untouchable.

3) What's next for Petrino, the man? He's got some serious 'splain' to do. He's 51, married and has four kids, and he was messing around with someone half his age in what has become the biggest affair scandal in Arkansas history not involving Bill Clinton. He lost a job that was going to pay him seven-figures for as long as he wanted it. Dude has dug himself a hole so deep he's about to see China.

4) Is there a message in this for the sport as a whole? OK, we don't know many times we need to say this but we'll keep doing it. Gang, tell the truth. Period. Tell the truth. If Jim Tressel had told the truth he would have been disciplined but likely would still be the coach at THE Ohio State. Same goes for Bruce Pearl. And almost any other high-profile coach that was sacked recently. Here's saying if Bobby Petrino had stood up at the news conference after the motorcycle crash and spilled the beans, he'd still be the coach. He'd likely be getting a divorce of course, but he'd still have a job.

5) What's the lesson? When you ignore history, you're doomed to repeat it. Several Falcons players said after Petrino tippy-toed off into the night that the man was a liar and classless. Here is what then Falcons running back Warrick Dunn said in December 2007 when Petrino left. "I guess Arkansas should be worried. Any family or any kid he recruits should worry. Do you really buy into what a guy says when he did the same thing to Louisville to come to Atlanta? He did the same thing to Atlanta to go to Arkansas. I think his history and rep speaks for itself.” And there you go. (Side note: In Petrino's apology statement released to the media, he lamented the fact that he did not have the chance to meet with his players face-to-face before his firing became known. Digest that one.)


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Turning the page

If anything good is to come from this Petrino mess, it's this: College football coaches other than Nick Saban will soon come to grips that they are not bigger than the program. This day of reckoning is starting to take shape and there will be a stark and swift turn on this in the very near future.

Let's look at the downfalls of some of the true monster names in recent years for various things that had little to do with football.

Pete Carroll re-built USC into a power and had to skadoodle because of Reggie Bush and Co.

Jim Tressel had THE Ohio State among THE nation's elite and was foiled by tattoos and trinket traders.

Joe Pa, well, that was so surreal and gross, let's just move along.

Now, Bobby Petrino, who in truth had Arkansas poised to contend in the SEC West, which is saying something.

The other positive thing that has evolved from these scandals is some perspective in regard to NCAA violations. Case in point: Lane Kiffin was harangued for a few secondary violations that included mentioning a recruit by name to a reporter when he was Tennessee. That doesn't really seem like that big of a deal anymore, huh? Not with cover-ups and payoffs and scandals with child molestation and the seedy stuff that went on at Miami.

The NCAA needs to hurry up and restructure their rule book while the pendulum of perspective is swinging into some area of consciousness.


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    Atlanta Braves' Jason Heyward, left, slides safely across home plate to score as Houston Astros catcher Chris Snyder (18) waits for the throw during the eighth inning of a baseball game Tuesday, April 10, 2012, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Braves win, Braves win

See, we told you as soon as Chipper Jones returned, all would be right with the Braves' world.

We're kidding of course, but Jones did go 2-for-4 with a homer in his season debut and Atlanta recorded its first win. In fact, at this pace Jones will win a batting crown (he's on pace to hit .500 this year, which would be a record) and have the greatest swan song season in sports history.

Of course, it's baseball and it's a long season and you have to trust it.

Two other Braves related matters:

1) Jordan Schafer had three hits and three stolen bases against the Braves on Tuesday. Here's saying the former five-star Braves prospect and current Astros centerfielder will be one of those guys that tortures the Braves for years to come. A Brett Butler for this generation if you will.

2) On the other end of the spectrum, former Braves' first-round pick Joey Devine continues to battle arm troubles. Devine missed 2009 and 2010 recovering from Tommy John surgery and will miss the rest of this season for another Tommy John surgery. Devine was a first-round pick by Atlanta in 2005 and was believed to be the closer of the future. Now his future in the game is in doubt.


This and that

— Paul Azinger said Tiger Woods' profanity-laced rants and club-throwing-and-kicking actions made Woods look like the "south-end half of a northbound mule." This may be the strongest testament to how much the golf world has changed its view on Woods. When he acted like a horse's patootie before, everyone kind of turned the other way and pretended it didn't happen. And if any of the regular golf media folks said anything about it Woods would have stonewalled them. Now, Paul Azinger is delivering zingers.

— Former Auburn linebacker Kurt Crain was found dead in his home earlier this week. He was one of our favorites during his time at Auburn. Dude would flat-out hit you.

— The Falcons do not have a first-round pick this April (and we still contend it was a good deal to get Julio Jones, and here's saying the Browns would trade that first-round pick for Julio right now without blinking an eye). Still, from the files of bad news for our enemies is still somewhat good news, the recent developments of the Saints and the soap opera that is "The Young and the Petrino" have a slew of Falcons fans we know grinning and whistling while they work.

— The Celtics looked great against the Heat last night. It was an enjoyable game to watch.

— College basketball's favorite will be shaped when a few high school studs pick their college of choice today. Kentucky is a finalist for two of the biggest unhooked fish on the board. Here's saying the Wildcats land at least one of the two and maybe both.


Today's question

What's your thought on the Bobby Petrino situation?

And beyond that, was firing him the right call? And beyond that, do you believe Petrino could have kept his job if he just told the truth about the sordid situation from the start last week?

And beyond that, put yourself in Johnny Razorbacks Fan's seat. Let's say this happened to Saban or Chizik or whoever is the coach at your school, do you want them fired knowing the football team is going to take suffer?


about Jay Greeson...

Jay was named the Sports Editor of the Times Free Press in 2003 and started with the newspaper in May 2002 as the Deputy Sports Editor. He was born and raised in Smyrna, Ga., and graduated from Auburn University before starting his newspaper career in 1997 with the Newnan (Ga.) Times Herald. Stops in Clayton and Henry counties in Georgia and two years as the Sports Editor of the Marietta (Ga.) Daily Journal preceded Jay’s ...

Comments do not represent the opinions of the Chattanooga Times Free Press, nor does it review every comment. Profanities, slurs and libelous remarks are prohibited. For more information you can view our Terms & Conditions and/or Ethics policy.
jgreeson said...

Sorry gang for not having the comments turned on.

We're up and running now.

Thanks for your patience.

— 5-at-10

April 11, 2012 at 1:20 p.m.
BIspy4 said...

Well then, forget the email I just sent ya. Some of it, at least.

April 11, 2012 at 1:38 p.m.
Stewwie said...

[And beyond that, was firing him the right call? And beyond that, do you believe Petrino could have kept his job if he just told the truth about the sordid situation from the start last week?]

Yes, the firing was the right move for reasons I stated yesterday. I think Petrino may have kept his job had he owned up to it right away and then had a press conference to make a legitimate, tearful apology to all the fans. Every school and AD is a little bit different so who knows. Either way, not lying to his boss would have been a better move for Petrino.

[And beyond that, put yourself in Johnny Razorbacks Fan's seat. Let's say this happened to Saban or Chizik or whoever is the coach at your school, do you want them fired knowing the football team is going to take suffer?]

If this is Russ Huesman or John Shulman instead of Bobby Petrino, I would hope that Rick Hart would levy the same punishment. The integrity of the school and its leaders is more important than wins and losses.

April 11, 2012 at 1:44 p.m.
BIspy4 said...

You're not supposed to wish for bad things to happen to people. But when they happen to Bobby Petrino, I wonder if my priest will absolve me of that sin of wishing for bad things, even to bad, really bad, people.

April 11, 2012 at 1:45 p.m.
chas9 said...

No to the Nutt.

Strong's a strong choice. Louisville's had some good coaches over the years. Better than their overall standing would suggest.

Don't know that Petrino's untouchable NOW. Man, that's some cartoonish pic of him all rosy red with road rash and collared up. SNL couldn't have done the look better.

Apologies in advance to all you bikers out there, but the mere act of getting on a hog (see what I did there?) in the first place is strike one on the tally sheet of bad judgement.

April 11, 2012 at 2:03 p.m.
jgreeson said...

Spy —

It's never good to wish ill for folks. Although if it was ever possible, Petrino would be one of the acceptable options.

Skip to the Stew my darling —

Spot on about hoping your AD would make the same call. The more you think about it, the more gross this whole thing is. (Side note: Want to know something that speaks volumes about Petrino's rep? No one is surprised about this. At all.)

And, Stew, you're wise beyond your years, because you're spot on with the knowledge of "Either way, not lying to his boss would have been a better move for Petrino." That's fortune-cookie worthy right there.

— 5-at-10

April 11, 2012 at 2:05 p.m.
jgreeson said...

9er —

The Nutt was a joke. So was Tuberville.

We're a believer in Strong. A strong believer in fact.

The photos of Petrino are priceless. And at least one friend of the show has emailed in here that the motorcycle injuries were minor and the fallout was from after Mrs. Petrino heard about the details.

Petrino will have at least 18 months without a gig and then some program starved for success that is desperate will give him another chance. Scars and all.

— 5-at-10

April 11, 2012 at 2:17 p.m.
chas9 said...

Weeds does a good job in his column today pointing out how nutty are those who care mightily about which prep stars KY might sign, so I'm showing my nutty side when I pass along that some say Cats target Noel could block more shots than did the Unibrow.

And have you read about the Florida high school player (not a UK target) who does it all well with one hand?

April 11, 2012 at 2:24 p.m.
jgreeson said...

9er —

No player on UK's roster next fall is going to block more shots than the Uniblocker. Your assertion is probably right that Noel may even be better defensively. Still, he's not going to block more shots because of the great team defensive scheme UK could play this year.

Take the title game: Terrence Jones was physical with Thomas Robinson and allowed the Uniblocker to free lance and in turn block shots. It was a great scheme that Anthony Davis flourished in. Not sure the piece will be there to replicate it next season.

And yes, saw the story on the one-armed hoopster. What a great story.

— 5-at-10

April 11, 2012 at 2:41 p.m.
wcole777 said...

These guys, Paterno especially as one of the gravest offenders, not coming forward with damaging information, whether it be against themselves or other coaches around, them need to straighten things out.

It's most unfair when you dangle the carrot in front of a bunch of high school players who signed with your school after hearing all the assurances about the solidarity of the program and how your school is the best place for them to grow and suddenly they find themselves victims of a coaches terrible decision(s) not to speak up about something going on within the program that's illegal, or the coach commits the illegal act themselves and deny it until it's proven true to the detriment of everyone else. it's ridiculous and far more damaging than the truth would have been in the beginning in both aforementioned scenarios.

I'm of the mind that if anything nefarious in nature occurs by staff, big fish or little, that could put a program at risk of being wrecked (pun intended) and involves school money, time or the absolute and undeniable use of power to hire and seduce young women at your leisure it's time to go. If you want that then you need to take it as far from your job, your school and worst of all your family... as far as you possibly can. Don't s*** where you sleep. It will stink eventually.

It's unfortunate what happened in Arkansas but no matter who my coach was I'd be more than happy to get rid of them if they pulled one (or who knows how many before getting caught) of these maneuvers.

To quote Anthony Hopkins after his stroke in Legends of the Fall: "Screw em! Screw em!"

April 11, 2012 at 3:18 p.m.
chas9 said...

When I saw the great Clay Bennett cartoon today with the "That's all, folks" looney tunes pig, I thought sure it was about Petrino, but then I read the small print. But it coulda been about The Bobster. Maybe Clay would do version 2.

April 11, 2012 at 3:20 p.m.
Stewwie said...

I saw that John Daly (yes, that John Daly) wants John Gruden to be the next head coach at Arkansas. Any chance Gruden will be interested? I wonder how long he'll go before he ends up coaching somewhere again.

Any odds/lines out there on who the next coach in Hogtown will be?

April 11, 2012 at 3:27 p.m.
mcpell3 said...

I think all players and coaches ought to have realized that the program comes first. Just ask Joe Pa, Peyton, and now Bobby "The Liar" Petrino.

Kurt Crain was a tackling machine. He's still #2 I believe on AU's list for tackles. Of course last year's defense slept during those drills.

April 11, 2012 at 3:31 p.m.
chas9 said...

Award a "Free Bobby" t-shirt to WC777.

April 11, 2012 at 3:36 p.m.
BIspy4 said...

Kurt Crain was part of a long string of good Auburn linebackers back then.

Wonder how much influence Jerry Jones will have in the hire of Arkansas next head coach?

April 11, 2012 at 4:47 p.m.
jgreeson said...

WC —

Bring the hammer. Well-said my man.

And sweet buckets of scandal, how many of these type of deals are we going to have. It's getting re-flippin'-diculous.

9er —

Cocnur about WC needing a Petrino shirt. We'll work on that. And yes, Clay's drawing could have been on The Bobster.

Stew Alcinder —

All John Daly really wants is a 6-footer for birdie. a 6-pack of Bud and 6 cigarettes. And Jon Gruden is in such a position of power, it's going to take a HUGE offer to get him out of the announcers booth.

Odds: Malzahn will get a call. Butch Davis will get a call (he left a mess at UNC but he did not get a show cause tag. Kirby Smart will get a call. There has been talk of going with an interim coach, but there's so much talent on the roster that they need to find someone now. If they find an interim and he wins 10-plus games with Petrino's players, they could get stuck with someone who is a bad coach that had a good year. Not unlike what happened to West Virginia with Bill Stewart.

McPell —

It's getting gross. Period. And Kurt Crain was a flippin' tackle machine. And yes, last year's LBs were missed the practice that Ted Roof worked on tackling. (Although Daren Bates was pretty stout the second half of last season.)

Spy —

And Jerry Jones is going to be a player in this thing, you can count on that.

— 5-at-10

April 11, 2012 at 5:19 p.m.
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