Ask Mike: Bobby Mania, Playoffs Bracket Madness & Can You Add More Seats to BWA?

By Mike Irwin
on 2023-12-04 20:30 PM

Q. A lot of Bobby Petrino questions today. Our first one is from jmoore who asks: Did you see the hiring of Petrino coming or was it a total surprise?

A. I considered the possibility the minute I realized that Jimbo Fisher was probably going to be gone at A&M. I was fully aware of how badly Petrino wanted to come back here and I knew that Sam Pittman liked him. But every source I had at the University kept telling me that he was not hirable because of the specific reason he was fired at Arkansas back in 2012. Universities are filled with faculty and students who recoil at the idea that a football coach hired his mistress over other more qualified applicants for the job. The University of Arkansas was lucky that they didn’t end up with several lawsuits over that deal.

So when they hired him I was absolutely surprised. I was surprised that it was done with the approval of the school chancellor, the system president and the board of trustees. I think they pulled it off because Petrino was not being rehired for the same job. He’s not a head coach. He doesn’t hire people. He doesn’t fire people. He develops an offense, coaches it and calls plays during games. So he’s not in a position to do what he got fired for eleven years ago.

Q. austin.hogfan says: So I believe most of the media weren’t fond of Bobby Petrino. Do you really believe he has grown and changed to where not only the media but staff, administration and players will see a new and improved person yet get the kind of results we believe he is capable of?

A. Actually almost all of us in the media liked Petrino back then. We didn’t see the bad side of him. He showed up on time for press conferences. He gave good answers to our questions. He didn’t get mad at questions that would tick off some coaches.

His problem was with the rest of the athletic department and various boosters. Personally I think he was frustrated by the lack of a separate, stand alone football complex. He wanted privacy and he wasn’t exactly friendly when dealing with athletic department staffers in the former Broyles Center which, at the time, housed the football facilities.

Petrino eventually got what he wanted. Jeff Long took his ideas for what became the Fred Smith football Operations Center and started raising money to pay for it. Petrino would never see it. He was fired before construction started. Now he’s finally getting to work there.

Q. Dr. Starcs says: You mentioned a couple weeks ago that you had heard from people in Aggie land how Bobby was a changed man. I’d like to hear more on this also.

A. I didn’t hear from anyone. I was reading various Aggie websites looking for any reaction to Petrino that I could find. One story involved somebody walking down a hallway in the athletic department and they dropped a bunch of stuff on the floor. Supposedly Petrino was there, saw it and helped the person pick it up. Also the fact that we didn’t hear anything negative about him coming out of A&M during those months was a sign to me that he was different.

Q. Sherlock.Hawg says: What a week! I still can’t believe we have Bobby back. I feel that this will be a huge success or a spectacular failure. I truly hope he still has that fire that can make us competitive. What do you think?

A. He has fire alright. Everybody I talk to who knows him say he’s gonna try to move heaven and earth to get the offense going again. He has a burning desire to atone for the mistake he made back in 2012. Yes, it might not work. They have to get some players in a hurry. The portal is open. What happens in the next couple of weeks will be huge for either success or failure.

Q. Space Hog asks: Do you think Petrino told KJ to hit the portal, or was that KJ deciding he needed a change?

A. As of when we’re doing this show on Monday, the opening day of the portal, he’s not in there. I expect him to be. Nobody is telling Jefferson to leave but it looks like three SEC schools will pursue him heavily if he goes into the portal: Mississippi State, Auburn and South Carolina. The word is he will command some pretty hefty NIL money if he makes that decision.

Q. Light Hoss Harry wants to know: Wonder if Sam can wrangle Bobby’s vicious tongue-lashing of players and staff?

A. Will some of Petrino bad cop coaching wear off on him? I doubt it. Really it’s better to do the bad cop, good cop thing anyway. However, I really do think that Petrino has calmed down a lot. Will he still go off on unfocused players? Sure. Travis Williams does that. Most position coaches do and Pittman does it occasionally. It will take a while but I think we’ll see that Bobby Petrino 2024 will be a lot different from Bobby Petrino 2011 mainly because he’s got a different job here.

Q. jack penguin asks: With BP back is there any chance Sam hires Houston to give halftime speeches? Only half kidding. We need motivation at half.

A. I think Nutt will talk to the team from time to time. I don’t know about a halftime speech. Maybe before practice occasionally. Nutt is most likely going to become a fund raiser and a PR person for the athletic department and they need him IMO. He’s coming back in a different role. I think he can be a great resource for the athletic department.

Q. MB Hog says: I know Sam is thought of as one of the best offensive line coaches in the country but that hasn’t played out that way in his time here as HC. Do you think he is just better at teaching the linemen someone else’s schemes rather than coming up with his own?

A. First of all I don’t agree with the notion that Arkansas hasn’t had good offensive lines under Pittman. The first two years were really good. Even 2022 wasn’t bad. It’s this past season where things went off the rails. To me that was a combination of several things. Misevaluating players in recruiting. Over evaluating certain players once they arrived on campus and a failure to develop the offensive line room as a whole. That’s on Sam Pittman. The only excuse? He’s not the day to day O-line coach. Pittman has got a lot of stuff on his plate as head coach and Cody Kennedy, who was around those players day to day, should have sounded a warning siren a year or two back which is probably why Kennedy is no longer on the staff.

Q. WVHogfan asks: If Bobby Petrino had not lied to the people of Arkansas and to Jeff Long about his affair, do you think he would not have been fired, but maybe faced a suspension? After all, the coverup is usually worse than the crime.

A. Jeff Long said that the minute he realized Petrino had hired his mistress over other qualified candidates for a job inside the football program, he knew he had to fire Petrino. That may be true but it’s not the story Petrino told supposedly told friends after he was fired. His version of the story, and I say supposedly because Petrino himself has not confirmed this, was that Jeff Long was going to let him keep his job, if he publicly apologized and if he signed an amended contract which would have put him on a very tight leash. Petrino rejected that plan and walked out of his meeting with Long. He did so because he didn’t believe that Long would fire him. After it happened Petrino was shocked and immediately realized how badly he had messed up but it was too late.

In the days and weeks after that stories began to emerge that Petrino was admitting to letting his ego get out of control. He was remorseful and emotional about his mistake and was just hoping that he would get a chance to correct it someday. I had no idea at the time if any of this was true but it sure lines up with him making that apology to the LR Touchdown club couple of years ago and what he said in his press conference last week.

Q. fieldturf wants to know: With Kennedy gone does that mean Sam takes over the OL? That means Bobby will be chewing on Sam when they don’t perform well?

A. I assume you are joking but some have seriously suggested that Pittman take over the offensive line. That is just not workable. There’s a reason teams have a head coach. That job involves a lot of things but overseeing the entire practice every day is a big part of it. I still remember when Joe Kines kept his daily job as defensive coordinator after he was appointed Interim head coach by Frank Broyles after Jack Crowe was fired in 92. Arkansas won three games that season and when it was over Kines admitted that he should have put somebody else in charge of the defense so he could be the full time head coach.

With former Baylor offensive line coach Eric Mateos set to join Arkansas’ staff you can forget about Pittman coaching the O-line. That would be an insult to Mateos.

Q. that’llduepig says: When I saw that Missouri is playing Ohio State in the Cotton Bowl, I laughed and laughed! It is going to be brutal for Missouri. What do you think?

A. Missouri is all in for this game. Ohio State is not. The Buckeye’s QB has already hit the portal. Supposedly several more of their starters will follow. This game sets up nicely for Missouri. I think they will win it.

Q. my3boneheads asks: Just curious on your thoughts about the college football playoffs. Did you agree with the four teams? If so explain. If not, who would be your top four? I had it 1.Washington 2.Michigan 3.Florida State 4.Georgia.

A. Well I would not have had Georgia in there for sure. The issue is whether Alabama should have been in instead of Florida State. To me that was the Saban influence and how ‘Bama improved from September to November. I think they are the best team in the country right now. But no question it’s not fair to an undefeated Florida State team. I blame the slowness to go to an expanded playoff system. It’s stupid that it took this long to get from the BCS two-team system to the four-team model and finally, next year, 12 teams.

Q. It is basketball season and we have some basketball to talk about. Our friend Razoralex 88 says: I was so so blessed to have been a part of that win over Duke. This game I had circled to be a must-go but was turned away when tickets were at least $300-400 but somehow found a ticket for $100! One of the best decisions of my life.

A. Seeing a game like that in person is something you will never forget. Sort of like the ’75 Arkansas-A&M football game in War Memorial Stadium. The Aggies were No. 2 in the nation and the Hogs beat ’em like a drum. The atmosphere was electric. It’s the main reason why I decided to stay here for what is now a 48 year decision. BTW I just learned yesterday that Teddy Barnes passed away. He caught a touchdown pass right before halftime in that game and the route was on. Frank Broyles always called him “the immortal Teddy Barnes.” Now they’re both immortal.

Q. Marty Byrde’s proxy asks: Update on BWA remodel? I’d hate to lose seating after seeing Wednesday’s crowd. I can see some cosmetic things needed. Somehow possibly decreasing congestion in the concourse in big games for one. But what a great atmosphere.

A. No update. I have heard that the BOT is not in Hunter Yurachek’s corner on this plan mainly because of the cost involved at a time when that money could be better spent on coaches salaries and the NIL program. I do agree as do most of the fans I talk that some upgrades need to be made to the concourse, the restrooms and to the heating and air conditioning system. Some also have mentioned the need for an escalator in the main lobby.

Q. Hogdogger says: Bud Walton was packed for the Duke game. What a great thing to see. Any chance they might increase seating in there? If you build it they will come.

A. I’m not an architect or a construction expert but the only place I see where seats could be added is at the upper deck level on the east and west ends. There might be enough space for 500 or so seats, probably not enough to justify the expense. And by the way ,those who advocate tearing Bud Walton down and building a new arena, please move away. That is the single dumbest idea I’ve ever heard. Tear down the house that Nolan built on Nolan Richardson drive.


Q. mousetown asks: Have you seen the disgusting post on X that a Missouri fan put up involving two of our basketball players? I won’t mention it because it’s such a cheap shot at those kids, but why does Missouri hate Arkansas so much?

A. In this case you have a Missouri player who transferred to Arkansas and is making a big splash. If he were a below average player the Missouri fan probably wouldn’t care. I can’t fully explain why some Missouri fans have such issues with Arkansas. Maybe if Arkansas and Missouri had joined the SEC at the same time Arkansas fans would feel differently about this whole contrived Battleline rivalry thing. But Arkansas had been in the SEC for about 12 years by the time Missouri came in. Hog fans had come to look at LSU and Ole Miss as the teams they liked Arkansas to beat. Then the SEC office says, no, Missouri is your rival.

It doesn’t work that way with most fans.

(Last updated: 2023-12-04 20:30 PM)