SEC: Bobby Petrino scandal

SEC viewer's guide: Week 9

October, 24, 2014
Oct 24
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A look ahead to Saturday's games in the Southeastern Conference. All times Eastern:

Noon

UAB at Arkansas, SEC Network: Bret Bielema will have to wait at least one more week before notching that first SEC victory, but after three straight losses, this Arkansas team needs a win in the worst way. It’s not like the Razorbacks are playing poorly. Even Saturday, after falling apart in the first half, they didn’t give up. They responded in the second half and outplayed Georgia the final 30 minutes. That first conference win is coming. In the meantime, Arkansas can’t afford to overlook UAB. The Blazers put up 34 points on No. 1 Mississippi State earlier in the season, so they’re at least capable of getting in the end zone.

[+] EnlargeDak Prescott
AP Photo/Rogelio V. SolisDak Prescott threw for 268 yards and ran for 33 last season in a 28-22 home victory over Kentucky.
3:30 p.m.

No. 1 Mississippi State at Kentucky, CBS: What happened to Kentucky? This game was shaping up to be one of the biggest games in program history – a top-25 matchup, a chance to take down the No. 1 team in the country – and then it all fell apart at LSU on Saturday. Losing close is one thing, but the Wildcats were dominated in Death Valley. The good news is that they can still take down No. 1 this weekend as this will be Mississippi State’s first game since taking over the top spot. For the Bulldogs, it’s a chance to prove they’re worthy of No. 1 and it’s another opportunity for Dak Prescott to shine in front of a national audience.

4 p.m.

Vanderbilt at Missouri, SEC Network: A week after everybody left Missouri for dead, the Tigers are back in the SEC East race and rolling after a 42-13 win at Florida. The defense feasted on the Gators’ offense, forcing six turnovers and taking two back for touchdowns. That’s bad news for Vanderbilt quarterback Johnny McCrary, who will be making his first start for the Commodores. In his first action since the season opener, McCrary went 10-of-16 for 169 yards with one touchdown and one interception Saturday against Charleston Southern. But that was Charleston Southern. This is Missouri. Good luck Mr. McCrary.

7:15 p.m.

No. 3 Ole Miss at No. 24 LSU, ESPN: Don’t assume that Ole Miss is going to just go to Baton Rouge and handle its business. Yes, the Rebels have arguably the top defense in the SEC. And yes, they’re ranked No. 3 for a reason. But winning on the road at LSU is no easy task. Just ask Les Miles, who is 45-4 as LSU coach in night games at Tiger Stadium. There’s something special about when the sun sets over Death Valley. So don’t be surprised if this game is close in the fourth quarter, and it’s up to Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace to make a play. Wallace did account for more than 350 yards and four touchdowns at LSU two years ago.

7:30 p.m.

No. 4 Alabama at Tennessee, ESPN2: Thank you, Lane Kiffin, for infusing a little life back into this rivalry. He made it interesting back in 2009 when his Tennessee team nearly knocked off the eventual national champs, and he’s doing it again this year with his return to Knoxville as Alabama’s offensive coordinator. You can bet the fans will be a little more rowdy in welcoming Kiffin back to Neyland Stadium on Saturday. But despite all the hoopla surrounding Kiffin, there’s still a game to be played. Alabama comes in as a heavy favorite, and the Vols could be in trouble if quarterback Justin Worley isn’t able to play.

South Carolina at No. 5 Auburn, SEC Network: Gus Malzahn admitted this week that he wears a visor every game because of Steve Spurrier. That’s how much respect and admiration he has for the Head Ball Coach. On Saturday, Malzahn will face Spurrier for the first time as a head coach in a game that Auburn has to win for its playoff hopes. The Tigers are coming off a loss to Mississippi State, and this is their first of four SEC games in four weeks. Meanwhile, South Carolina has not delivered on the preseason hype. A top-10 team before the season, the Gamecocks are barely above water at 4-3.
John L SmithAP Photo/Gareth PattersonInterim coach John L. Smith is looking to keep Arkansas on its current upward trajectory.
John L. Smith might not have given his introductory press conference as Arkansas’ interim coach Tuesday without stern advice from his wife, Diana.

“She said, ‘Here’s the deal. You’re going back to people that love you and back to a team that is a good football team and you have a chance to fight for a national championship,’" Smith said. “She said, ‘You’ve done this your entire life and this might be the only chance you have left.’ So she said, ‘You’re going back!’ And here I am.”

The man known for his offseason skydiving endeavors and running with the bulls in Pamplona actually needed a little extra push.

So after struggling with the decision to leave Weber State, his alma mater, just four months after accepting the head-coaching job, Smith, 63, decided to get in touch with Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long shortly after Long fired Bobby Petrino on April 10. From there, it was a match made in 10-month heaven.

“Today, I firmly believe we’ve hired a coach that will serve in the best interest of our student-athletes and the university, both in the upcoming season and in helping us shape the long-term future of our program,” Long said just before he introduced Smith. “There’s no question it’s the best decision for this team, for the 2012 season.”

And that’s exactly what Smith is in Fayetteville for -- this team.

Long made it clear that this hire was made on an interim basis because it will create a better time frame for “attracting candidates we would expect for one of the nation’s premier college football head-coaching positions.”

Arkansas brought in Smith, who coached special teams for the Razorbacks for the past three years and has worked with eight Arkansas assistants, in order to keep this team together. This was a very comfortable hire for Long, and it showed with just how comfortable Smith was when he referred to stud running back Knile Davis as “Ka-Nile” at his presser.

You don’t intentionally botch a star’s name without having some clout.

This hire was made to keep from losing this team if an outsider arrived. This hire was made to bring a familiar face to a team that didn’t want change to interfere with all the talent it had.

This hire was made to win now and worry about the future along the way.

“Our expectations here are still the same,” Smith said. “Nothing’s going to slow down. In fact, we’re going to speed up. Our expectations are that were going to go ahead and we’re going to battle and we’re going to fight for a national title.

“Let’s make it a special year.”

Smith will look to make it a special year by avoiding much change. He isn’t looking to completely take over Arkansas’ program. He’ll have veto power, but as he put it, he’ll let his “coordinators coordinate.”

He’ll work with the defense and special teams, but he’ll let offensive coordinator Paul Petrino and the other offensive coaches do their jobs without much interference.

No need to get in the way of a team filled with offensive fun and Heisman Trophy candidates like Davis and quarterback Tyler Wilson.

Smith sees himself as “a mentor,” “an adviser,” and “a minor decision-maker.

“I have all the confidence in the world in what’s going to take place and I know these coaches,” he said. “… We have good coaches and I’m not going to goof them up.”

[+] EnlargeKnile Davis
Beth Hall/US PresswireHeisman candidate Knile Davis should make John L. Smith's tenure at Arkansas go a bit more smoothly.
Smith’s 40 years of coaching experience, including 18 as a head coach, were certainly factors in Long’s decision, but the fact that Smith is familiar and knows what will be expected in such a short amount of time was exactly what Long wanted and felt his program needed.

However, there is uncertainty. Most of lies in what will happen in 2013. It doesn’t sound like Long is looking at Smith as a long-term option, but Smith didn’t rule out that he might throw his hat in the ring if he succeeds this fall. But recruits will likely be a little stumped as well.

What exactly will coaches tell recruits? Will any of the coaches on this current staff be there next year? What will change if/when another coach comes in?

There isn’t much Smith or any of his coaches can say, but Smith assures he’ll sell the school, the program and the coaches, all in that order.

“We’re going to do everything that we can do to sell every guy that we think can play -- every player out there -- to come out, take a look at this institution,” Smith said. “… This is a top-10 program. Program, not individual. So that’s the way that we’re going to approach it.”

And a winning season should definitely help. There’s no question about it, but the first sign of danger could turn recruits off, making things rather awkward. Things could also get awkward if this experiment doesn’t work. Not getting to 10 wins could reek of failure because Smith was brought in to win now -- not in 11 months.

There certainly is risk in this hire, but players and administrators are convinced this was the right decision, so they hope those around them will jump on board. Smith made it clear that this program can't proceed further without its fans, like the record 45,250 who showed up for the spring game.

“We just have to continue on,” he said. “Let’s get more excited. Let’s lock it up together and trudge on. We have to make it a special season. We have to embrace the adversity -- I said we’re going to be better because of it -- and we’re moving on.

“Fans, come on out.”

Oh, they will … ready for wins.
Not surprisingly, former Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino supported the hiring of his longtime mentor, John L. Smith, to come in and coach the Hogs for the 2012 season.

Petrino and Smith coached together at four different stops, and Petrino brought Smith to Arkansas in 2009 to coach special teams and outside linebackers.

Petrino's statement, which was released through his agent, Russ Campbell, read:
"I think Jeff Long made a great hire. While there were several outstanding internal candidates, John L. brings a lot of head coaching experience to the table that will help Arkansas transition. He will unify the staff, the team and the Razorback fan base. I wish Coach Smith, his staff and the Arkansas football team the very best."
The Arkansas players pledged solidarity two weeks ago when their head coach, Bobby Petrino, was sent packing.

Their message to Hog fans everywhere was that they would stay the course.

That’s essentially what Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long did Monday in bringing back Petrino mentor and former Arkansas assistant John L. Smith to see the Hogs through the 2012 season.

It might not be a big splash nationally. Then again, who does make a big-splash hire in late April in college football?

More importantly, the Hogs weren’t looking to make a splash. They were looking for stability, and that’s what the 63-year-old Smith brings to an Arkansas program that seemingly has most of the pieces in place to break through and win its first SEC championship next season.

[+] EnlargeJohn L. Smith
AP Photo/Al GoldisJohn L. Smith, fired by Michigan State in 2006, gets another crack at big-time college football.
Smith knows the Arkansas program. He knows the players. He knows this staff. He knows what needs to happen if the Hogs are going to indeed make a run next season.

Petrino brought Smith aboard in 2009 to oversee special teams and coach outside linebackers. But Smith was much more than just an assistant coach to Petrino, who had previously worked with Smith at Louisville, Utah State and Idaho.

Petrino used Smith as a sounding board for an assortment of things, and Smith was never one to hold back.

It’s also noteworthy to remember that Smith approached Arkansas about this gig. Yes, he will have his detractors about leaving Weber State high and dry, but he also viewed this as his last chance to do something really special in coaching.

He doesn’t need a crash course when it comes to the Hogs’ personnel. He’s also worked with eight of the nine coaches on the staff, and there won’t be any transition this preseason in terms of putting in new offensive or defensive systems.

Smith is smart enough to realize that he has a veteran staff in place, and he’s going to let his coaches coach.

Sure, he’ll be the one making the big decisions. He’ll decide when it’s time to gamble on fourth down, and he’ll make the final call on personnel issues.

But he’s not going to tinker just to be tinkering, and because of that, the collective sigh you heard coming out of the Arkansas locker room late Monday afternoon reverberated throughout the SEC.

There’s a reason star running back Knile Davis tweeted, “The happiest day of my life.”

The Hogs’ players didn’t want change. They didn’t want an outsider coming in and tearing up the staff and putting in a new system they’d have to learn in one preseason camp.

They wanted this staff to remain intact, and they wanted one of their own to be put in charge.

Even though Smith had been gone for a few months, he qualifies as one of their own.

He was right there with Tyler Wilson, Tenarius Wright and Davis as they fought to push this program out of mediocrity and into the national limelight the past three years.

Like the players on this team, Smith has a lot invested in making Arkansas football more than just a temporary resident of the SEC’s penthouse.

Plus, you know he has to be hungry for one more shot after the way his last head-coaching stint ended. He was fired at Michigan State following the 2006 season. That’s after being named Big Ten Coach of the Year his first season in East Lansing. The Spartans were 8-5 that 2003 season, but Smith never won more than five games in any of his next three and he was ousted after going 22-26 in four seasons.

Smith had some talented teams at both Michigan State and Louisville, but it’s hard to imagine either of those teams being more talented than the one he’ll put on the field this fall, especially on offense.

At Michigan State, Smith was renowned for his emotional outbursts. His halftime meltdown in the 2005 Ohio State game was epic. As he stormed off the field, Smith fumed, “The kids are playing their tails off and the coaches are screwing it up.”

Never boring, Smith has climbed a 19,340-foot peak on Mount Kilimanjaro. He’s skydived from a Cessna at 14,000 feet, and he’s run with the bulls in Pamplona, Spain.

But now comes the challenge he’s been waiting on his entire life.

Rescuing this coming football season and bringing an SEC and/or national championship to Arkansas would reduce all those other feats to mere footnotes, and in the process, make that ill-fated motorcycle ride back on April 1 seem like a bad dream.
My favorite moment of the John L. Smith era at Weber State -- all 4 months of it -- was the crock pot full of alma mater nonsense he served during his introductory news conference.

It was passionate. It was poignant. And as it turned out, it was crap.

"No. 1, I've always had a place in my heart for Weber State," said Smith that December day in Ogden, Utah. "You do that naturally. That's your school, that's where you graduated from, so that fondness, that love is always with you. And again, to come back to run your own program as a head coach again is crucial for me. This hopefully can serve as an opportunity for me to give back something to the university."

Smith gave something back to Weber State. It's called a kick to the groin.

For the rest of Gene Wojciechowski's column, click here.

Video: Arkansas returns to the field

April, 21, 2012
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Jeannine Edwards with the latest from Arkansas' spring game as well as the Razorbacks' search for a new football coach.
Documents released Thursday revealed that former Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino carried on a relationship with Jessica Dorrell for more than a year.

Petrino admitted to Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long that he sent her candy, referred to her as a "close friend" and said the affair with Dorrell started with a kiss between the two over lunch last fall.

That information came from handwritten notes by Long during his investigation of Petrino and assistant athletic director Jon Fagg. They were released as part of a Freedom of Information Act request made by The Associated Press.

According to the notes, Petrino, 51, and Dorrell, 25, were intimate for about five months until February. But the university discovered a heavy amount of phone calls and text messages between the two that date to April of 2011.

The notes also suggest that the two decided they would have to end their intimate relationship when Dorrell decided she wanted to apply for a job under Petrino, which he wanted her to "earn."

Clearly, that didn't completely happen, considering they were together April 1 when Petrino's motorcycle accident that triggered all of this occurred.

Petrino was fired nine days after the now infamous accident. Long fired him because he failed to disclose his relationship with Dorrell, a former Arkansas volleyball player whom Petrino hired in March without disclosing his obvious conflict of interest. He also failed to disclose that he had given her $20,000. Long's notes said that the money was used for a car, wedding expenses and a vacation. Long also wrote that the payment could make Arkansas "vulnerable to sexual harassment" lawsuit.

Long's notes also made it clear that he was attempting to keep Petrino as Arkansas' head coach, but couldn't find enough reason why Petrino's actions didn't violate his contract.

At first, there was confusion, then anger, followed by a sense of abandonment.

But as Arkansas’ players continue to push through the sudden ouster of their head coach, Bobby Petrino, they say there’s a solidarity on this team that will endure.

“There was a lot of hurt, because we had come so far and then to have it crash in a week was shocking,” Arkansas junior tailback Knile Davis, one of the Hogs’ unquestioned leaders, told ESPN.com.

“But, really, after they made the decision to let him go, the morale of the team got better. We knew what we were facing then, and the way we look at it is that we still have each other. It’s the same team. We’re just going to have a different leader.”

Davis said the leadership on the team during all the turmoil has been unlike anything he has seen. What’s more, that leadership has grown.

When Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long met with the players early Tuesday evening to inform them that he was firing Petrino, Davis said it was understandably a tense situation.

“There were a lot of mad guys, and you heard the kind of things you don’t want to hear,” he said.

But as soon as Long left, senior quarterback Tyler Wilson stood up and had his own message for the team. So did senior linebacker Tenarius Wright.

That message: Nothing changes.

“We can use this as an opportunity or an excuse,” said Wilson, recounting what he told his teammates in that emotional meeting.

“It’s important that we come together as a football team, and maybe it makes us an even better football team. I think it’s unified us in a lot of ways, and we’ll be stronger for having gone through this.

“The best thing is that all of our goals are still intact.”

[+] EnlargeTBD
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images"We can use this as an opportunity or an excuse," Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson told his teammates following Bobby Petrino's firing.
Both Davis and Wilson have met with Long and expressed their strong desire that this coaching staff remains intact and that someone is promoted to be interim head coach for the 2012 season.

“I think that’s extremely important, at least for this season,” Wilson said. “I don’t mind saying that I’m the player I am and considered one of the elite players in the country because of this coaching staff, because of this offense and because of my knowledge of this offense.”

Wilson said he received some positive feedback in his meeting that Arkansas’ administration might go that way this season, that they might not bring in another head coach, who would in turn bring in his own staff.

“But I also understand that it’s the athletic director’s decision and that it’s his job who he’s hiring and firing,” Wilson said. “It’s only my opinion, but it’s his job. I respect his opinion, but I do think my judgment and two cents worth will have some pull. At the end of the day, he’s going to do what’s best for the university, and I trust him.”

Davis’ concern with a new head coach would be having to learn a whole new system over the summer and during camp. He also hates the idea of breaking up the chemistry the players have developed with this staff.

“I talked to Jeff Long, and he told me he doesn’t know what he’s going to do,” Davis said. “He’s searching for a head coach, but I guess it depends on who he could get. I just think we’re better off sticking with what we have. I’m not saying we couldn’t learn a new system in camp. It’s still football, but it would be difficult.”

Neither Wilson nor Davis said he had talked to Petrino since his firing was announced.

Davis said he was saddened to see it end in such embarrassing fashion for his head coach, but conceded that Petrino brought it on himself.

“It was unnecessary and could have been avoided, but he is a human being,” Davis said. “We all make mistakes. He made his, and now he’s paying the consequences. It just got to the point where there was nothing Jeff Long or anybody else could do [to save Petrino].”

Wilson’s message to Hog fans is to keep those expectations right where they’ve always been. Arkansas, which finished No. 5 in the final polls last season, was expected to open the 2012 season in the top 10 nationally.

The Hogs get both Alabama and LSU in Fayetteville next season at Razorback Stadium.

“We need every bit of their support, and I can promise them that I’m stepping up my leadership to the point where I’ll be a coach on the field,” Wilson said. “I want all the fans to know that we’re going to do everything we can to keep this together, and they should still have great expectations for the season.

“I can promise you that we do.”

Davis, who has been held out of contact this spring after missing last season with a fractured ankle, said nobody has missed a beat on the practice field.

If anything, he said the intensity has only been ratcheted up since the team learned of Petrino’s firing.

“We’ve been looking really good in practice and, I think, can be even better than we were last year,” Davis said. “We’re sticking to the plan and sticking to our goals. No one is leaving. No one is transferring, and no one is going in the [NFL] supplemental draft.

“We’re going to stick together and fight.”

Arkansas officials confirmed Friday that Jessica Dorrell has been placed on paid administrative leave.

Dorrell was riding on the back of former Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino's motorcycle when he crashed on April 1, a crash that eventually led to Petrino's firing. He and Dorrell had been having an affair, and she was hired late last month as the Arkansas football team's coordinator for on-campus recruiting.

It's hard to imagine any scenario where Dorrell would return in that role given everything that's transpired. She was making $55,735.
Former Arkansas head coach Bobby Petrino won't appeal the decision to terminate his contract with cause, a source close to the coach told ESPN's Joe Schad Friday.

Petrino was let go Tuesday for violating a morals clause after failing to disclose his inappropriate relationship with Jessica Dorrell, whom Petrino hired as a recruiting coordinator for Arkansas' football team, and withholding other information from athletic director Jeff Long.

Petrino's contract called for an $18 million buyout if he were fired without cause, but Long determined that Petrino's actions meant that he could be fired with cause. Petrino's contract stated that Long had the right to suspend or fire the coach for conduct that "negatively or adversely affects the reputation of the (university's) athletics programs in any way."

The source told Schad that Petrino had accepted responsibility for his actions and his firing.

The Associated Press also obtained the content of Petrino's text messages that were still available on his business phone through a Freedom of Information Act request.

In some, Petrino asked assistant athletic director Chris Wyrick about his job status the day after he was put on paid leave. Petrino also apologized to Long and asked someone if an investigation would uncover his text message content.

Long, Hogs in no rush moving forward

April, 12, 2012
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It sounds like Arkansas is going to take its time in deciding where it goes from here, and that’s another good call by athletic director Jeff Long.

There’s no reason to rush at this point.

You’ve got a proven, veteran staff, one the players feel comfortable with, and they’ve all been pointing toward the same thing: Breaking through in the Western Division and winning an SEC championship.

The most interesting dynamic concerning the staff at this point is whether or not Paul Petrino will hang around. Paul Petrino is the younger brother of Bobby Petrino, and that’s sure to be a delicate situation with Bobby on the outside looking in now.

Still, Long has said he hopes Paul will remain, which would be a bonus for the Hogs on offense. Bobby ran that show, called the plays and put the plan together each week.

Paul would be the closest thing to an extension of Bobby.

The hard part with bringing somebody else in right now is that guy would certainly want to assemble his own staff.

What’s more, how many established coaches are going to want to leave their current players high and dry at this point?

Unless Long can find exactly what he’s looking for in the next few weeks and find a coach he thinks is the long-term answer, it makes sense to stick with the current staff.

Either way, the 2012 season is going to be a monumental challenge for the Hogs, who have the talent to fight through this ordeal no matter what the staff makeup looks like in the fall.

Linebackers coach Taver Johnson will stay in charge through the remainder of spring practice, which concludes on April 21.

But after that, the spotlight is back on Long.
Former Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino's phone records indicate that he and Jessica Dorrell communicated frequently over the past seven months.

Hundreds of pages of records released under a Freedom of Information Act request Wednesday showed that the two exchanged more than 4,300 text messages and nearly 300 phone calls. Some of those messages also appeared to be picture and video messages.

This came a day after Petrino was fired for failing to disclose his relationship with Dorrell.

Petrino
Petrino
Dorrell
Dorrell
The volume of communication between Petrino, who is a married father of four, and Dorrell, who was hired by Petrino without him disclosing his obvious conflict of interest, is startling, but some of the times at which these two communicated are just baffling.

The two exchanged 91 texts on Sept. 13 and 84 texts over five hours the day before a game at Vanderbilt -- a game in which the Razorbacks just squeaked by. The day Arkansas beat Troy 38-28, the two exchanged 70 text messages. Twenty-six more were exchanged the day Arkansas beat Mississippi State, and they exchanged a whopping 55 texts the day before the LSU game.

The week of the Alabama game, records indicate that Petrino's mind was elsewhere too, as he made phone calls to Dorrell at very odd times. Over four consecutive days during that week, Petrino called Dorrell at 5:52 a.m., 6:35 a.m., 5:49 a.m. and 7:55 a.m. The Razorbacks eventually lost to Alabama 38-14.

Phone records also show that the two remained in close contact after the April 1 motorcycle accident.

The tremendous amount of text messages and phone calls exchanged between the two show an absurd amount of arrogance on Petrino's part. A clause in Petrino's contract clearly stated that athletic director Jeff Long had the right to suspend or fire the coach for conduct that "negatively or adversely affects the reputation of the (university's) athletics programs in any way."

What Petrino had been doing since September clearly did that -- and he knew it. Failing to be honest with his boss about everything the moment after his motorcycle accident can be thrown in there as well.

This shows just how much Petrino felt he was above the law. Petrino isn't the first coach to have an inappropriate relationship with an employee, and he won't be the last, but the frequency with which the two communicated dating back to Sept. 12 shows Petrino felt he was invincible. He was doing something he knew violated his contract and he kept doing it -- a lot.

Keeping information from Long embarrassed Petrino's boss and the University of Arkansas. Maintaining his improper relationship with Dorrell, whom Petrino once paid $20,000, embarrassed Petrino's family. Everything made public leading up to Petrino's firing was a major slap in the face to his family, those inside Arkansas' program and those who support it.

But the phone records provide a much bigger, more painful slap; one that won't heal quickly at all. It was an obvious misuse of power by Petrino and it showed that he felt invulnerable and impervious to the rules and consequences.

However, unlike Petrino, Long showed the utmost integrity when it came to making a tough decision. Long decided that winning wasn't everything at Arkansas. He decided that Petrino's 34-17 record at Arkansas (21-5 over the past two seasons) wasn't enough to save Petrino.

Long decided that Arkansas deserved better, and it does. This team is equipped with the personnel to compete for an SEC West title and maybe more. Petrino thought so, but he won't have the honor of leading this team in 2012 because he failed to show honor in his job.
Say what you will about how it all ended, but this much is certain about Bobby Petrino’s tenure in Arkansas: He meant victories and money during his four years there.

From former coach Houston Nutt’s final season in 2007 to the 2010 season under Petrino, the Razorbacks saw donations to the football program rise a whopping 359 percent, with a more than 80 percent growth from 2009-10 to 2010-11, to $15.4 million. No other SEC school saw such growth in that time period: Auburn’s donations increased by 15 percent, while Florida saw a 9.7 percent increase. Georgia came in lower at 3.9 percent, and LSU saw donations decrease by more than 13 percent.

The figures come from data each university provides to the NCAA, and while it’s important to note that every athletic department handles donations differently -- some schools only take what they need each year from their fund-raising pots -- there’s no arguing Arkansas has seen a huge influx of cash during Petrino’s tenure.

Football revenue overall rose by 54 percent during Petrino’s first three years, to $61.1 million. Auburn, which won a national title during that time period, saw a 30 percent increase. LSU’s revenue growth came in at 13 percent to $69.1 million.

Petrino, who was in the middle of a seven-year contract under which his salary averaged $3.53 million, put teams on the field that had fan-friendly high-powered offenses.

“Under Petrino, the team averaged 94 percent capacity for home games. It was only 91 percent under [Houston] Nutt,” said Scott Prather, one of the founders of Coaches by the Numbers, a website dedicated to gathering statistical data on football coaches. “If you figure each ticket at an average of $50 per ticket, that’s nearly $600,000 per year.”

Petrino’s last two teams won 81 percent of their games, the best two-year record for any Razorback coach since 1988-89 under Ken Hatfield. In his Tuesday press conference announcing Petrino’s firing, Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long acknowledged he has a tough road ahead as he searches for a new football coach.

“It's a difficult time of year to be searching for a head football coach, no question,” said Long.

Replacing a successful coach is also potentially difficult timing for the athletic department, which broke ground on a new football complex last fall as part of a comprehensive athletic facilities master plan for many sports. The master plan, which aims to be funded solely by private donations, is estimated to cost up to $327 million at full completion.

Heather Collart, a former athletics administrator who now works for the Detroit Pistons, said the loss of an administrator or coach can have a definite impact on donations and capital campaigns.

“While talent reigns supreme within athletics, the personality of leadership has a stronger tie than most people realize to donors, alumni and especially former student-athletes,” said Collart.

The message from the university will be key in the next weeks several weeks, she said.

“Boosters will always question difficult decisions, especially when it results in the loss of a figurehead who had an enduring personality or winning record -- however if you can point to a long-standing process that holds a mission statement as gospel, boosters will come to accept the decision much more quickly and in most cases will remain loyal to a program.”

Video: Reactions to Petrino firing

April, 10, 2012
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David Pollack, Chris Low, Chris Fowler, Bo Mattingly, Mark May and Andre Ware on the firing of Bobby Petrino.
Fired Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino released a statement Tuesday night following athletic director Jeff Long's news conference.

Here's Petrino's statement in full:

I was informed in writing today at 5:45 p.m. that I was being terminated as head football coach at the University of Arkansas.

The simplest response I have is: I’m sorry. These two words seem very inadequate. But that is my heart. All I have been able to think about is the number of people I’ve let down by making selfish decisions. I’ve taken a lot of criticism in the past. Some deserved, some not deserved. This time, I have no one to blame but myself.

[+] EnlargeBobby Petrino
Beth Hall/US Presswire Bobby Petrino took the blame for poor decisions that led to his firing at Arkansas.
I chose to engage in an improper relationship. I also made several poor decisions following the end of that relationship and in the aftermath of the accident. I accept full responsibility for what has happened.

I’m sure you heard Jeff Long’s reasons for termination. There was a lot of information shared. Given the decision that has been made, this is not the place to debate Jeff’s view of what happened. In the end, I put him in the position of having to sort through my mistakes and that is my fault.

I have hurt my wife Becky and our four children. I’ve let down the University of Arkansas, my team, coaching staff and everyone associated with the Razorback football program. As a result of my personal mistakes, we will not get to finish our goal of building a championship program. 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. We have left the program in better shape than we found it and I want the Razorback Nation to know that it is my hope that the program achieves the success it deserves.

My sole focus at this point is trying to repair the damage I’ve done to my family. They did not ask for any of this and deserve better. I am committed to being a better husband, father and human being as a result of this and will work each and every day to prove that to my family, friends and others.

I love football. I love coaching. I of course hope I can find my way back to the profession I love. In the meantime, I will do everything I can to heal the wounds I have created.

I want to thank Chancellor [David] Gearhart, Jeff Long, the Board of Trustees, the University administration, faculty, staff, students, alumni and fans for the opportunity to serve as the head football coach at the University of Arkansas for the past 4 years. I was not given an opportunity to continue in that position. I wish that had been the case, but that was not my decision. I wish nothing but the best for the Razorback football program, the University and the entire Razorback Nation.

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Saturday, 10/25