So why did Arkansas decide to fire Bobby Petrino?
Where do you want us to start? If hiring someone with whom you're having an affair and then lying to the university about it wasn't enough, we found out tonight that Jessica Dorrell was paid $20,000. And that she got a job at Petrino's program for which there were 159 candidates. Which means there are 158 people who might very well have cause to bring a lawsuit against the University of Arkansas. Basically, Petrino created one of the densest legal, moral and ethical thickets we've seen in the SEC in quite some time. And that's no small task.
Let's break this down a little bit: How long did the relationship with Dorrell go on? And when did it start?
It's not entirely clear. Arkansas athletics director Jeff Long wouldn't get into those kinds of details at the press conference, and Petrino at least appears to indicate in his statement that the relationship was over, if you're inclined to ever again believe anything Petrino says.
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.
Long suggested the relationship had gone on for some time, but common sense probably told you that a while ago.
About that $20,000 -- was it state money?
No. At least that's what we're being told by the Arkansas athletics department, and there's no real reason not to believe that right now. If it was, Bobby Petrino would be headed to the hoosegow right now.
What happened to Jessica Dorrell?
We don't know. Jeff Long wouldn't address her employment status at the press conference, and I'm not a lawyer -- so I can't tell you if there would be any legal issues in firing her. (Sexual harassment laws can be a very weird thing.) Knowing how these kinds of stories usually work, we'll likely hear about it if she's fired.
Is Petrino going to sue?
I could say that we don't know, and that's true, but he seems to be leaning in that general direction. I don't think he'll get anywhere with a lawsuit, but I also don't know how else you would parse this part of the statement.
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.
Which strongly suggests that there will be a :place to debate Jeff's view of what happened." There are a lot of Louisville and Atlanta Falcons fans who would love to see Petrino on the witness stand.
Will Arkansas hire someone to replace Petrino before the season?
Long seemed to keep that door open by saying that he was going to begin his coaching search as soon as the press conference ended. But it's hard to see a coach walking away from his current job to take the job four months before the season and then take the fall if all the turmoil undermines what could be a huge season for Arkansas. Arkansas' best bet would be to hire an interim coach and then do a thorough job of vetting their next candidate.
There's a history of that sort of thing working out very well. Ohio State did that and got Urban Meyer out of it. Vanderbilt did that and is now seen as a program headed in the right direction after hiring James Franklin. Both of those programs had deeper issues than Arkansas has right now, but it's still a model Arkansas administrators would do well to keep in mind.
What are the popular names right now to replace Petrino on a permanent basis?
Garrick McGee was getting a lot of ink even before Petrino was told he was fired. Former Arkansas assistant, gets the program a goodwill bounce for hiring a black coach when there are still too few in the FBS ranks and, despite what people might say about it now, no one would really blame the man for leaving UAB to coach in the SEC. Keep in mind that Jeff Long had a big hand in hiring Petrino before the Falcons' season had ended -- it's not like he's someone to allow niceties to get in the way of a good deal.
The other inevitable name is going to be Gus Malzahn. You might remember that the formerly-hot coaching commodity was introduced to the college game as the offensive coordinator for the Hogs under Houston Nutt. He played at Arkansas for a couple of years and is taking over at Arkansas State. Again, no one except Arkansas State fans are going to blame him for making the jump.
Then there are the names that I think are a bit out there. Art Briles has yet to prove that he can sustain success at an AQ level with RGIII to lead the charge. I have a hard time seriously believing that a retread like Dave Wannstedt really has the cachet for a program that wants to be an elite team in the SEC West, but stranger things have happened. Houston Nutt's available.
You're joking there, right?
Yes. But there's very little that could happen on this story that would surprise me any more.