Wally Hall is the managing sports editor for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Arkansas-Little Rock after an honorable discharge from the U.S. Air Force, he is a past president and member of the Football Writers Association of America, member of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association, past president and current executive committee and board member of the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame, and voter for the Heisman Trophy.
LIKE IT IS:
Long took care of coaches critical of him
NWA Media/JASON IVESTER -- Arkansas offensive coordinator Paul Petrino talks to quarterback Tyler Wilson during the second quarter against Texas A&M on Saturday, Sept. 29, 2012, at Kyle Field in College Station, Texas.
LITTLE ROCK Paul Petrino was exposed as an offensive coordinator last season, and now he’s exposed himself as part of last season’s problems.
Petrino was the most critical of those quoted in a Sporting News story, although John L. Smith and Paul Haynes, also quoted in the story, made negative comments. After the fact, Petrino said he would always love the Arkansas Razorbacks. Sure, and birds don’t fly.
The whining was about Jeff Long, some assertions that some of the seniors quit or even faked injuries so they could prepare themselves for the NFL draft, and various other things, but mostly it was about Arkansas’ athletic director.
In hindsight, hiring John L. Smith for 10 months - or even 10 minutes - was a mistake.
It quickly became obvious there was no leadership on the sidelines before, during or after games.
However, Long was handcuffed.
Bobby Petrino’s motorcycle wreck, with a leggy blonde half his age on board, catapulted the Razorbacks program into a bad national light, and Long salvaged the dignity and reputation of the program by firing Petrino.
Then he found himself without a head coach in mid-April.
No head coach leaves his job in April. No one wanted the Arkansas job, and hiring an interim was Long’s only answer.
He turned to a guy who looked pretty good on paper. Smith had 19 years of head coaching experience, a record of 132-86 and was familiar with the team and staff.
Instead, Smith came across more like your grandfather after too much rum cake than a proven head coach.
For him to have anything but praise for Long is nothing more than a joke.
Long paid him $850,000 and deferred most of it until after Smith’s bankruptcy was settled.
Smith had a shot at greatness and simply couldn’t get a grip on the program.
For any of those assistants to criticize Long is akin to someone with a mouth full of bacon cursing a pig farmer.
After the program was Petrinoed - and Paul was lucky to be retained with the Petrino name - Long discovered that not one assistant coach had a contract. No one was guaranteed a single penny after June 30.
Long busted his tail and worked out agreements that guaranteed the season and, if they were not retained, an extra three months’ pay while they looked for a new job. If after three months they had exhausted all attempts at future employment and still didn’t have a job, the deal called for Arkansas to pay them for another three months.
This is the man whom Paul Petrino, Haynes and Smith criticized.
Surely they are leaning toward the weak excuse, that they were misquoted.
The problem with last year’s team apparently started with Smith but continued with the likes of Petrino and Haynes.
To even hint, let alone say, that seniors quit is really saying those kids had no leadership. Maybe some of the assistant coaches were too busy updating their resumes or making calls about coaching openings than doing the job they were being well compensated to do.
Players follow the lead of their coaches.
Paul Petrino, who landed safely back in Fayetteville after being fired at Illinois, wasted no time in demonstrating that he wasn’t even close to his brother when it came to calling offensive plays.
Six times last season the Razorbacks scored fewer than three touchdowns, and that included a shutout by Alabama (Bobby Petrino was never shut out at Arkansas), after which a frustrated Tyler Wilson, who sat out after suffering a concussion the previous week, was allowed to say some of his teammates had quit.
They didn’t quit. They were beat down by a team that was coached better, prepared better and more ready to play. The previous season the Hogs were held to fewer than three touchdowns twice, against Alabama and LSU, who played for the BCS National Championship.
Paul Petrino threw some players under the bus but admitted maybe some of the staff didn’t help Smith enough, including him.
No kidding. We saw it before the games, during the games, and now, after the games.
Sports, Pages 21 on 02/01/2013