TJ Carpenter: A Match Made in Hog Heaven

by TJ Carpenter  on Monday, Dec. 13, 2010 11:33 am  

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From the very beginning of this relationship it seemed Arkansas and Bobby Petrino were made for each other. (No, this isn’t the opening line to the next Meg Ryan movie.) He needed a way back into college football and an escape from a terrible situation in Atlanta. Arkansas needed a head coach who didn’t approach the game the way a used car salesmen approaches a naive consumer.

So he left Atlanta with three games left in an NFL season, because Arkansas needed a coach there and now. Arkansas welcomed him with open arms. And the national media relentlessly hammered both Petrino and Arkansas for the next three years. From former ESPN mouth Sean Salisbury actively telling recruits, “Don’t go to Arkansas,” to ESPN columnist Pat Forde accusing Petrino of being a “disingenuous drifter,” Arkansas and its coach have taken their fair share of verbal abuse.

I’d say after the recent announcement of the terms of Bobby Petrino’s new contract with Arkansas just three years separated from all that criticism, a lot of people owe Petrino an apology.

Essentially, Petrino would have to be hired by the New York Yankees or Manchester United to be pulled away from Arkansas. The buyout in his new contract and a no-compete clause would be insane if he were looking at Arkansas as a stepping stone program and not the destination.

Seriously. Insane.

Without this new contract, in less than a month Petrino’s buyout would have depreciated to chump change. Well, about $3 million on Jan. 1, 2011. In the new deal Petrino’s buyout skyrockets to $18 million during the next two years and doesn’t dip below $4 million until 2017.

If Petrino is just trying to lull Arkansas into a false sense of security, so that when Dubai starts a football team and joins the Big 12 he can become its new head football coach and the burn will be that much worse, he’s sure got me fooled.

Now, for those people who are into conspiracy theories, it should be noted he hasn’t actually signed the new contract yet. He’s only signed a letter of agreement, which is not legally binding. It’s symbolic, but symbolism is enough for me to commend his commitment to Arkansas football.

The biggest criticism of Arkansas’ football program has always been you can’t win consistently there. This type of financial commitment by Petrino tells me he doesn’t think that’s true.

Arkansas could be the best team in the SEC next season. Petrino knows it, too. He believes he not only can win, but win consistently - compete for SEC titles consistently, compete for national titles consistently - at Arkansas. Based on what the Razorbacks have coming back, what they have recruited so far, and how all that compares with what we know about the rest of the SEC next season, I believe it, too.

Now, to me this means fans have no excuses any longer. Don’t tell me the stadium was about 20,000 short of a sellout because it’s hunting season, or the opponent wasn’t good enough, or it’s too close to a holiday.

Petrino has shown through his actions that he views this as a destination job, Arkansas has decided to commit financially in the form of facilities and paycheck upgrades.

If Petrino acts like a big-time coach, Arkansas acts more and more like a big-time program. Fans better start acting like big-time fans.

TJ Carpenter is host of The TJ Carpenter Show on ESPN 92.1 The Ticket in Northwest Arkansas, every weekday from 3 to 6 pm. Jim Harris and Chris Bahn of make regular appearances on the show.



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