Bobby Petrino axed as Arkansas head coach

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Bobby Petrino axed as Arkansas head coach

From Comcast SportsNet
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) -- Bobby Petrino believed he could win a national championship at Arkansas. He won't get the chance. Athletic director Jeff Long fired Petrino on Tuesday night and laid out a stunning laundry list of misdeeds against the man he hired away from the Atlanta Falcons four years ago. He scathingly dressed down Petrino for hiring his mistress and intentionally misleading him about the secret relationship that was laid bare following their April 1 motorcycle ride together that ended in an accident. He said Petrino missed multiple chances over the past 10 days to come clean about an affair that had crossed the line from infidelity into workplace favoritism. "He made the decision, a conscious decision, to mislead the public on Tuesday, and in doing so negatively and adversely affected the reputation of the University of Arkansas and our football program," Long said, choking up at one point as he discussed telling players that their coach was gone. "In short, coach Petrino engaged in a pattern of misleading and manipulative behavior designed to deceive me and members of the athletic staff, both before and after the motorcycle accident." The 51-year-old Petrino, a married father of four, maintained an inappropriate relationship with 25-year-old Jessica Dorrell for a "significant" amount of time and at one point gave her 20,000, Long said. Long would not disclose details of the payment, or when the money changed hands, but said both parties confirmed the "gift." Kevin Trainor, a spokesman for Long, said the money came from Petrino, not university funds. Petrino issued a lengthy apology and said he was focused on trying to heal his family. "All I have been able to think about is the number of people I've let down by making selfish decisions," he said. "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." Dorrell, a former Razorbacks volleyball player, worked for the Razorbacks Foundation before she was hired by Petrino on March 28, four days before their accident on a winding rural road. Long said she was one of three finalists out of 159 applicants and got the job after a time frame he said was shorter than usual. Petrino never disclosed his conflict of interest in hiring Dorrell or the payment and she had an unfair advantage over the other candidates, Long said. "Coach Petrino abused his authority when over the past few weeks he made a staff decision and personal choices that benefited himself and jeopardized the integrity of the football program," Long said. Petrino has built Arkansas into a Southeastern Conference and national power over four seasons, including a 21-5 record the past two years. Long made it clear that Petrino's success on the field was overshadowed by repeated deceptive acts and that no one was more important than the program itself. Petrino was in the middle of a seven-year contract under which his salary averaged 3.53 million per year. A clause gave Long 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." Long said Petrino was fired "with cause" -- meaning he will not receive the 18 million buyout detailed in the contract -- and there were no discussions about ways to keep Petrino at Arkansas. Long met with Petrino on Tuesday morning to inform him there were grounds for termination and that the coach was "concerned" about that. Long sent Petrino a letter Tuesday afternoon to formally notify him he had been fired. "I chose to do it in writing because that's the terms of his contract," he said. Dorrell was hired as the student-athlete development coordinator for Arkansas football, paid 55,735 annually to organize on-campus recruiting visits for the team and assist with initial eligibility for each incoming player Long declined comment when asked about Dorrell's job status. She was "at one point" engaged to Josh Morgan, the athletic department's director of swimming and diving operations, according to a person with knowledge of the situation who spoke only on condition of anonymity because the details have not been disclosed. The person said Morgan was still employed at the university. Petrino finishes his tenure at Arkansas with a 34-17 record in four seasons, leading the Razorbacks to a No. 5 final ranking last season and a Cotton Bowl win over Kansas State. With quarterback Tyler Wilson, running back Knile Davis and others coming back, there is talk of Arkansas challenging the two powerhouses in the SEC West, national champion Alabama and national runner-up LSU. And maybe the Hogs will. But they won't do it with Petrino. The beginning of the end came on April 1, which Petrino at first described as a Sunday spent with his wife at an area lake. Instead, he and Dorrell went for an evening ride and skidded off the road in an accident left him with four broken ribs, a cracked vertebra in his neck and numerous abrasions on his face. The avid motorcycle rider said the sun and wind caused him to lose control on the two-lane highway about 20 miles southeast of Fayetteville. What he failed to mention, both at a news conference two days later and to Long for two more days, was the presence of Dorrell other than a vague reference to "a lady" who had flagged down a passing motorist. That changed when the state police released the accident report. Petrino, tipped off by the state trooper who usually provides security for him during the season, informed Long 20 minutes before the report was released, and he admitted to what he called a previous inappropriate relationship with Dorrell. Long placed Petrino on paid leave that night, saying he was disappointed and promising to review the coach's conduct. As the review continued, state police released audio of the 911 call reporting Petrino's accident. It revealed Petrino didn't want to call police following the crash, and a subsequent police report showed he asked if he was required to give the name of the passenger during the accident. Petrino was forthcoming about Dorrell's name and presence with police, but only after misleading both Long and the public during his news conference. The school even released a statement from Petrino's family the day after the accident that said "no other individuals" were involved. That wasn't true and the broken trust, along with questions about Dorrell's hiring to be the school's student-athlete development coordinator, proved to be too much for Petrino to overcome. "Our expectations of character and integrity in our employees can be no less than what we expect of our students," Long said. "No single individual is bigger than the team, the Razorback football program of the University of Arkansas." Petrino took the school to its first BCS bowl game following the 2010 season, losing in the Sugar Bowl to Ohio State, and improved his win total in every year. Arkansas was 5-7 his first season in 2008, 8-5 the second before finishing 10-3 and 11-2 during his last two seasons. The coach's tenure with the Razorbacks began under a cloud of national second-guessing following his abrupt departure from Atlanta 13 games into the 2007 season. Petrino left farewell notes in the lockers of the Atlanta players rather than telling them of his resignation in person. He was introduced later that night as the new coach of the Razorbacks, carrying with him a vagabond image after holding 15 jobs for 11 different programsorganizations in 24 seasons. He infamously met with Auburn officials in 2003 to talk about taking the Tigers' head coaching job while Tommy Tuberville still had it. In his statement, Petrino said he and his staff had left Arkansas in better shape and wished for its success. "As a result of my personal mistakes, we will not get to finish our goal of building a championship program," he said. "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." Assistant head coach Taver Johnson will continue to lead the program through spring practice, which ends with the school's spring game on April 21. Long said he has asked the rest of the staff, including offensive coordinator and Petrino's brother, Paul Petrino, to remain at least through then.

NFLPA tells rookies to be like Rob Gronkowski

NFLPA tells rookies to be like Rob Gronkowski

Rob Gronkowski is a model citizen in the NFL. In fact, the NFL Players Association is advising rookies to be more like Gronk, according to The Boston Globe

The New England Patriots tight end has developed a name for himself on and off the football field. With that attention comes branding. And at the NFLPA Rookie Premiere from May 18 to 20, the NFLPA encouraged rookies to develop their own brand -- much like Gronkowski.

“Some people think he’s just this extension of a frat boy, and that it’s sort of accidental,” Ahmad Nassar said, via The Globe. Nassar is the president of NFL Players Inc., the for-profit subsidiary of the NFLPA. “And that’s wrong. It’s not accidental, it’s very purposeful. So the message there is, really good branding is where you don’t even feel it. You think, ‘Oh, that’s just Gronk being Gronk.’ Actually, that’s his brand, but it’s so good and so ingrained and so authentic, you don’t even know it’s a brand or think it.”

Gronkowski's "Summer of Gronk" has indirectly become one of his streams of income. The tight end makes appearances for magazines and sponsors. Because of his earnings from branding and endorsements, he didn't touch his NFL salary during the early years of his career.

Gronk was one of three players who were the topics of discussion during the symposium. Dak Prescott and Odell Beckham were also used as examples of players who have been able to generate additional income from endorsements. Beckham, in particular, has been in the spotlight off the football field. He's appeared on the cover of Madden, and just signed a deal with NIke which is reportedly worth $25 million over five years with upwards of $48 million over eight years. His deal, which is a record for an NFL player, will pay him more than his contract with the Giants.

“A lot of people talk to the players about, ‘You should be careful with your money and you should treat your family this way and you should treat your girlfriend or your wife.’ Which is fine. I think that’s valuable,” Nassar said, via The Globe. “But we don’t often give them a chance to answer the question: How do you see yourself as a brand? Because Gronk, Odell, none of those guys accidentally ended up where they are from a branding and marketing standpoint.”

Morning Skate: Sidney Crosby has been a good ambassador as the face of his NHL generation

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Morning Skate: Sidney Crosby has been a good ambassador as the face of his NHL generation

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while wishing everybody a safe and relaxing Memorial Day weekend. 

*Apparently Nashville Predators head coach Peter Laviolette has yet to try Nashville’s hot chicken despite his time behind the Preds bench. It’s okay, I have yet to try it either in my handful of visits to Music City. 

*Good stuff from PHT writer and FOH (Friend of Haggs) Jason Brough. Apparently it wasn’t so easy to make Wayne Gretzky’s head bleed when it came time for director Doug Liman to cut Swingers together

*Sidney Crosby cares about the history and the issues of the game, and has been a good ambassador as the face of his NHL generation despite the hate that always comes with such responsibility. 

*Puck Daddy examines Crosby’s performance in the playoffs, and the odds of him winning another Conn Smythe Trophy. 

*The Penguins have made it to the Stanley Cup Final without Kris Letang for their playoff run, and that’s an amazing accomplishment. 

*Erik Karlsson said that he will be tending to his injured foot next week, and expects a full recovery for next season after a brilliant run with his Ottawa Senators

*Larry Brooks again rails against the Stanley Cup playoff structure and it’s relation to an “absurd regular season.” Say what you will, but the fact the Penguins are there for a second straight season shoots down some of the absurdity stuff in my mind. The best team from the East is where they should be and they did it without Kris Letang to boot. 

*Chicago Blackhawks prospect Alex Debrincat is confident his abilities will translate to the NHL despite his size after taking home honors as the best player in junior hockey this season. 

*For something completely different: Apparently there’s a hard core comic book geek gripe that “The Flash” is burning through bad guys too quickly. This would make sense if they couldn’t revisit these bad guys at any point, but they absolutely can go back to a big bad like Grodd anytime they want.