Pure conjecture here, but isn't there also the possibility Long is building a lawyer-proof case to fire Petrino. If I'm not mistaken, UA and Petrino are mutually locked into a long-term contract that would be cost-prohibitive for either party to break. If Long can build a case for termination that won't leave the university on the hook after the wrongful termination suit that would be sure to follow, I suspect Petrino may get the axe.
Harry King has covered a lot of Arkansas sports in his day. The columnist for ArkansasNews.com posted a few of his views on the Bobby Petrino subject today and they fall right in line with what we wrote yesterday. A sampling:
“Opinion is all over the place and the two extremes are espoused by those eager to talk.
Behind the scenes, I suspect the views are just as diverse — from fire him to slap him on the wrist — even among members of the UA Board of Trustees. No doubt, it’s the same with donors who give big bucks to the Razorback Foundation. There must be those who say they will pull their donations if he is fired and those who say they will pull their donations if he is retained.
Charged with ignoring the morass of outside sentiment is athletic director Jeff Long, who also must disengage himself from a personal disappointment. After all, he has been over backwards to accommodate Petrino’s every whim and his thank you was a lie…
The gut feeling is that Long wants to keep Petrino, knowing that he has revitalized old fans and brought in new ones.”
Meanwhile, the Bobby Petrino support group that got so much attention yesterday with — as of this morning — 20,000+ Facebook members might not live up to the headlines it received. ArkansasSports360.com reports that “Team Save Coach Petrino” was “adding members without permission throughout Monday” on the social media site.
Also, just about 200 pro-Petrino folks showed up at an on-campus rally yesterday. Signs at the event covered the gamut. One said, “What’s Wrong With Scoring In The Offseason?” Another read, “Accept Apology and FORGIVE. Jesus Saved Bobby… Jeff… You Can Too.”
As we’ve written time and again, if Petrino gets the boot it won’t be because he had an inappropriate relationship. It will be because he hired the girl with whom he had the relationship — putting the school at risk for a major lawsuit — and because he lied to his bosses in an attempt to cover-up who was with him on his motorcycle.
The organizer of the event — Hog fan Matt Couch — admitted that his support is tied to Petrino’s record, nothing more. (Which means he’d and the other members of his group had better not make a peep when a coach at another program gets in trouble. They’ve surrendered the moral high ground.)
“If they won seven games would we be saying the same thing? Probably not… There’s probably a chance we wouldn’t even be having this rally because that decision would have already been made (by the university).”
Petrino — for now — remains. He’s suspended while new assistant Taver Johnson leads the team through spring drills. Arkansas’ AD clearly wants to keep his coach if he can.
But if he can’t, where might Long turn to replace Petrino? Kevin Scarbinsky of The Birmingham News thinks new UAB coach Garrick McGee could be a target. That’s because McGee just arrived in Birmingham after a four-year stint on Petrino’s staff. The last two years he was the Razorbacks’ offensive coordinator.
The folks at AthlonSports.com have put together a list of 10 potential candidates to replace Petrino should he be ousted, including Gus Malzahn from Arkansas State and Kirby Smart, the defensive coordinator at Alabama.
But what of an in-family move? McGee took over the reins of the UA offense when Petrino’s brother Paul left to head up Illinois’ offense. With McGee leaving and Ron Zook out in Champagne, Paul Petrino is back as the Hogs’ offensive coordinator.
Could Long exit one brother and simply promote the other? Would Paul do that? Would Bobby want him to? And why has Paul never gotten a shot at a head coaching job considering his brother’s success?
There will be options aplenty if Long does have to pull the trigger on Petrino. But for now, it still looks like he’s doing all that he can to keep from doing that.