No puffs of smoke from the Broyles athletic complex yet today to indicate if Bobby Petrino will remain pope of University of Arkansas Razorback football despite having lied to superiors about the young, blonde co-worker, Jessica Dorrell, who joined him for an ill-fated motorcycle ride that left Petrino smashed up physically and then professionally.
Athletic Director Jeff Long will make and announce the decision, but he'll be consulting with Chancellor David Gearhart and others.
Running traps among the Hog-wired, I compiled this speculative outlook:
* Odds seem to still favor retention of Petrino, but there are figures in the university hiearchy, such as some members of the Board of Trustees, who'd like to see him fired.
* A lack of emotional engagement from the moneyed class — unlike the strong sentiment that developed there for Houston Nutt's ouster — doesn't hurt Petrino.
* If Petrino is retained, he'll pay a significant penalty. Among the items discussed: 1) A large — in the six figures range — salary reduction diverted to a charitable cause; 2) a significant rewrite, in the University's favor, of the contract in ways that gives the university more leverage and reduces the money that Petrino would be owed should he be fired in the future (such as a cut from, say, $18 million to half that); 3) an abject apology.
* Petrino has a strong contract and good lawyers. If he insists any intimate relationship with co-worker Dorrell was over before her hiring — and she agrees — the workplace issue becomes harder to make stick as a firing premise. The University doesn't want to rashly invite an $18 million payment to Petrino with a firing it can't support with evidence. Petrino's careful statement about a "previous" indiscretion most now think was a way to signal that any dalliance with Dorrell was before her football employment. A motorcycle ride is just a motorcycle ride, in other words.
* In addition to legal vetting, the athletic department must be sure, if it retains Petrino, that other shoes might not be poised to drop. They're doing a search, as Betsey Wright might say, for smoking bimbos.
* Jessica Dorrell must be accommodated, but not likely by a continuation in a job with the football team. I have asked, by the way, if that job opening was posted before she was hired and if there had been other applicants.
* The current football fund-raising and the difficulty of rebuilding after a Petrino departure — plus the unhappy fate that would befall a vast staff and their families in the case of a Petrino ouster — loom as large issues for many people in on the discussions.
* All agree it's a tough call and they're happy not to be Jeff Long or David Gearhart. A decision is expected this week.