|Long took a chance in hiring Petrino, but was smart enough to cut ties. (AP)|
Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long won the press conference Tuesday night.
Coaches introduced at their introductory press conferences always "win" the press conference. It's referenced so often now it's become a cliché.
However, on Tuesday night standing before 17 television cameras with conceivably the entire state of Arkansas watching the press conference being televised live throughout the state and the nation, Jeff Long was in the midst of explaining why he had fired Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino.
When suddenly Long started breaking down. He got choked up. He didn't shed any tears, but came close. If there was ever any doubt, at that instance Jeff Long showed how much he cared about the University of Arkansas.
Too bad Bobby Petrino didn't show as much respect for the Arkansas program as his athletic director did. If that was the case, Petrino might still have a job.
"This is very difficult on a human and personal level," Long said. "I have responsibility to put that aside and do what's best for the university.
"People's lives are affected," Long said, explaining his emotions. "Those are sometimes the things that we miss."
What Petrino missed was, well, everything. He abused his power. He lied to Long about last week's motorcycle accident and tried to cover up that 25-year old Jessica Dorrell was riding on the back of his motorcycle when he crashed.
He lied to Long, he lied to Arkansas fans, he lied and lied and lied. Just as he did when he was at Louisville and as he did when he was with the Atlanta Falcons. Just as he seems to do every time he opens his mouth -- until he's finally cornered and has to admit the truth.
Maybe Jeff Long should have known better than hiring Petrino and paying him more than $3 million a year. But Long obviously felt he could trust Petrino and/or Petrino could change his stripes and would deliver wins and maybe even an SEC title to Hog Nation.
He delivered the wins and some big bowl trips. He won and quickly won over the fan base. So much that some were willing to overlook his "inappropriate relationship" with a woman half his age because he had the Hogs winning.
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Well, that was the problem. That and the fact his motorcycle crash led to him having to admit having an "inappropriate relationship" with Dorrell, whom he hired for a job within the Arkansas program.
Last month Petrino hired Dorrell from 159 applicants, of which only three were interviewed, Long said. Petrino and Dorrell later admitted that the coach gave his 25-year old "student-athlete development coordinator" $20,000 in cash.
"He abused his authority," Long said.
Long admitted that Petrino thought he had become bigger than the program. Actually, which BCS head coach making more than $2 million a year doesn't believe he's bigger than the program?
So Long did the unthinkable. He did the right thing. He fired the man he took a chance on only five years ago because that same man "knowingly misled the university, he abused his authority, he made personal choices that benefited himself and he deceived me and members of the athletic department."
I have a feeling Long has learned his lesson. Don't ignore the past when trying to predict the future. Petrino's past is filled with tons of horror stories from Louisville to Atlanta.
"I'm disappointed in his actions," Long said. "I hired him to lead our student-athletes. I'm disappointed in his lack of judgment and failure to tell me the truth."
Last week during the national championship basketball game between Kentucky and Kansas, I sent out the following tweet:
"Stay tuned at halftime as Bobby Petrino will jump his motorcycle over the fountains at Caesar's Palace."
It was intended as a light-hearted joke. Nothing malicious. There were some folks who took the tweet how I intended. I certainly didn't wish Petrino any ill will, knew that he was not in a life-threatening situation after one of his players said Petrino was fine and would be at practice the following day. Then, of course, there was a large -- very large contingent -- of Arkansas fans that suggested I go "[blank] myself." And those were some of the more civilized responses and e-mails I received.
I also received a twitter response from Jeff Long. He responded: "Classless Mr. McMurphy."
Long's response was predictable -- and admirable. He had his coaches' back. Of course one day later, Long found out how his coach had betrayed him the past few days/weeks/years.
Jeff Long showed Tuesday night that, unlike his former football coach, he is a class individual.
Bobby Petrino may no longer be employed by the Razorbacks, but, yes, he's still a pig.