Saturday Roulette: Vegas Still Likes Razorbacks' Odds At BCS Without Petrino

by Doc Harper  on Friday, Apr. 13, 2012 8:22 am  

Vegas still likes Arkansas at 15-1 odds following the termination of coach Bobby Petrino. (Photo by

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The offices of Saturday Roulette were expected to be closed throughout most of the off-season as the staff went to work earning and saving fantasy dollars for the fall fantasy gambling days. But, there are a couple of things that have caught our eye as we watch the fallout of Bobby Petrino’s ill-fated joyride down Highway Sin-Teen that we felt deserved to be shared with everyone.

1. You may recall, after a heated internal debate, we decided to pick Arkansas (-23) against Troy last season. The Razorbacks did win, but only by 10 points. Arkansas looked sluggish and unfocused throughout the game. Come to find out (after Chris Bahn analyzed Petrino’s phone records), Petrino swapped a staggering 70 messages with Jessica Dorrell on the day of the Troy game. Repeat: 70 texts on the day of the game. Take a moment to let that sink in. I don’t know if it’s fair to blame the team’s performance on Petrino’s own, let’s say, distraction, but Petrino himself seemed convinced enough that he never communicated with Dorrell on that level on a game-day again.

No, really, that’s all true.

Yes, regular readers of Saturday Roulette know we like to have a fun time, but the actual picks are made seriously. It gives us a shred of credibility. So, Coach Petrino, we’d like to take a moment to retroactively honor you with a Rigged Slots Award for your behavior that possibly cost the Razorbacks a cover, cost us several fantasy dollars, and cost any of the readers of this column, who were given false confidence in your abilities that week. I’m not sure where you’ll make room for the trophy, but I understand there’s now an empty spot on the back of your motorcycle that it might fit.

2. Before last week’s news broke, Arkansas’ odds of winning the national championship this year were 15-to-1, good for eighth best odds in the country. Some have adjusted the odds to 18-1, but that still puts the Razorbacks among the top 8-10 odds. One might think that losing a coach who was an insanely good 60-38-3 against the spread in his career (29-19-3 at Arkansas) would hurt Arkansas’ chances.  However, oddsmakers announced this week that Arkansas would remain at 15-to-1. Basically, they’re saying the talent and leadership among Arkansas’ players and coaching staff are good enough to overcome Petrino’s mess. Put another way, the people paid to study football and make these odds, not talking heads spewing hot air, believe Arkansas is as good without Petrino as they are with him.

If Jeff Long decides not to go the interim coach route, shouldn’t that be the first thing shown to prospective coaches? If I’m selling a candidate on the Arkansas job, the first thing I’d point to is 15-to-1. Most coaches go their entire career without getting odds that good. Whoever picks up the keys to the Broyles Center walks into it. It’s teed up. The Razorbacks just need someone who can hit the fairway. It’s not the same job it was when Petrino took it in 2007, when, to continue the golf metaphor, it was stuck at the bottom of a St. Andrews bunker.

This is not a rebuilding gig. Las Vegas oddsmakers consider Arkansas a top-10 team today. The Razorbacks are in the process of building $40 million in new football facilities. After the past week, Long is one of the most, if not the most, respected athletic directors in America. It’s incredibly rare for a program to be looking for a new coach with these assets already in place. Arkansas is a job that a new coach, like a free agent in pro sports, can sign with and immediately contend for a championship.

And even if Long chooses to name an interim coach, Long’s own history might suggest that to be the best option of all.  Believe it or not, Long has been in a similar situation before. 

A friend of Saturday Roulette’s, who happens to be a Michigan fan and will be referred to in this space as Little Michigan, reminded me of a situation at Ann Arbor in 1995, when Long worked in Michigan’s athletic department under Bo Schembechler. The Wolverines’ coach, Gary Moeller, had won Big 10 titles in 1990, 1991, and 1992, but was arrested during the 1995 off-season on charges of disorderly conduct (read a report of the good time here). Moeller later resigned/was fired. Little Michigan was “devastated." Michigan named Lloyd Carr, then an assistant on Moeller’s staff, as interim coach and hired him as head coach a year later. Carr went on to lead the Wolverines to the 1997 national title and was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.

So, Razorback fans, have faith in the program right now. Oddsmakers expect 2012 to be more exciting than even the last couple of years (Arkansas was 30-to-1 in 2011), and there is no reason to doubt Jeff Long’s capabilities to find the right people to lead the program in years to come. We suggest spending the off-season saving up those fantasy dollars, because Saturday Roulette plans on having fun this fall.

Doc Harper is a regular contributor to and  You can email him at and follow his thoughts and observations on Twitter @doc_harper.



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