Tom Murphy is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of Louisiana Tech University, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and voter for the Heisman Trophy and AP Top 25 football poll.
Day after the demise
Attorney for Petrino contemplates review
Arkansas head coach Bobby Petrino smiles as he leaves the field after their victor over LSU during the LSU v. Arkansas game held at War Memorial Stadium on Saturday.
FAYETTEVILLE Bobby Petrino’s attorney did not indicate Wednesday whether the fired Arkansas football coach would enter the university’s formal review process in an attempt to challenge his dismissal for cause.
Russ Campbell of Birmingham, Ala., said in a text message he had “no comment yet” on whether Petrino would ask for a review, which is allowable under the terms of his contract. Petrino has until Sunday - five days after written notice of his firing - to submit a written response regarding the grounds for his dismissal to UA Chancellor G. David Gearhart, with a copy to Arkansas Athletic Director Jeff Long, if he plans to request a review.
Long, claiming Petrino had “knowingly misled the athletics department” and had “jeopardized the integrity” of the football program in his dealings with 25-year-old UA football department employee Jessica Dorrell, fired the fifth year coach via letter at about 5:45 p.m. Tuesday. Because Petrino was fired with cause,the university does not plan to pay the $18 million buyout in his contract.
Petrino’s mirror buyout language, which started at $18 million for the first two years and is believed to be the largest in college athletics, was meant to keep the successful coach at Arkansas for the next seven years when both parties agreed to the terms Dec. 11, 2010, the three-year anniversary of his arrival in Fayetteville.
However, Petrino’s contract gives the university broad latitude to terminate him for cause. The language in the dismissal for cause section (14f) of his contract reads: “Otherwise engaging in conduct, as solely determined by the University, which is clearly contrary to the character and responsibilities of a person occupying the position of Head Football Coach or which negativelyor adversely affects the reputation of the University or UAF’s athletics programs in any way.”
Petrino has not had the chance to talk to his former team, which he led to a 21-5 record the past two seasons, since his dismissal.
“I wish that I had been given the opportunity to meet with the players and staff prior to this evening’s press conference and hope that I will be given the opportunity to give my apologies and say my goodbyes in person,” Petrino said in a statement released late Tuesday.
The firm, decisive wording in Long’s announcement and his occasional shows of emotion when discussing Arkansas’ football players has played well nationally since his news conference Tuesday evening. One prominent college football observer, who wished to remain anonymous, suggested that Long “became the most admired AD in college football” on Tuesday.
Petrino’s ouster could jeopardize Arkansas’ standing as aprojected national contender in 2012, a position that attracted quarterback Tyler Wilson and tailback Knile Davis back for another year instead of making themselves available for the NFL Draft. Both the fifth-year senior Wilson and the fourth-year junior Davis contemplated declaring early for the draft.
Arkansas’ players and coaches were not available for interviews after Wednesday’s closed practice, but that hasn’t stopped Razorbacks past, present and future fromweighing in through social media since Petrino’s firing.
“Lost for words twitfam,” wrote senior linebacker Tenarius Wright.
“Only thing different is a new face leading us out the tunnel ... my and boys gon ride regardless!!! #WPS,” junior lineman Alvin Bailey wrote.
“And at the end of the day I still love my hogs!” wrote 2012 linebacker signee Otha Peters.
Former Razorbacks lineman Ray Dominguez chimed in, writing, “Hope my boyz stay focused..there is still a championship to obtain this year.”
Wrote sophomore offensive lineman Mitch Smothers, “Proud to be a Razorback. Always will be.”
A selection of Arkansas players and assistant coachesPaul Haynes, Taver Johnson and Paul Petrino are scheduled to meet with the media after Friday’s scrimmage at Reynolds Razorback Stadium.
Former Arkansas receiver Jarius Wright stood up for Petrino’s coaching ability inhis Tweet, which read: “You can say what you wanna say about the man. He made me into a damn good football player. #Bobbyp.”
Petrino’s firing met with approval on a national level. In an ESPN SportsNation poll, 74 percent of the 160,000-plus respondents agreed with the UA’s decision to terminate his contract, with 78 percent of about 1,500 Arkansas respondents approving of Petrino’s firing. The only state in the poll more approving of Petrino’s firing was Georgia (82 percent in favor). Petrino is not a popular figure in Georgia, where he coached the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons for 13 games in 1997 before leaving for Arkansas with three games remaining.
Former Kentucky Coach Rich Brooks, who had an 0-4 record against Petrino when Petrino was at Louisville, went to Twitter to write: “Is honesty a thing of the past?? Really not surprised about what just happen @ Arkansas.”
Sports, Pages 17 on 04/12/2012