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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.

White Sox Talk Podcast: Zack Collins on hitting, catching and a Dylan Cease story you have to hear

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USA TODAY

White Sox Talk Podcast: Zack Collins on hitting, catching and a Dylan Cease story you have to hear

Chuck Garfien and Ryan McGuffey speak with Charlotte Knights catcher Zack Collins about

-His hot start to the season at the plate (5:30)

-How James McCann helped him with his catching during spring training (7:20)

-How he's changed his approach at the plate this season (13:10)

-What he orders at Chick-fil-A (15:40)

-Why he's not thinking or worrying about getting called up to the majors (17:50)

-An incredible story about Dylan Cease (20:30)

-His thoughts on Tim Anderson's bat flip (28:20) and more.

Listen to the entire podcast here or in the embedded player below.

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White Sox Talk Podcast

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A Jose Abreu awakening could make an already productive White Sox offense even more fearsome

A Jose Abreu awakening could make an already productive White Sox offense even more fearsome

Hitting has not been the biggest problem for the White Sox. But even after a win to kick off this week's series against the Baltimore Orioles, they're still under .500 and in fourth place in the aggressively weak AL Central.

There's a ton of baseball left, and their spot in the standings on April 22 indicates nothing about where they'll be at the end of September. But the issues that have cropped up in the early going — many of them having to do with what's gone on on the pitcher's mound — have signaled that another losing season in the thick of the ongoing rebuilding process wouldn't come as a great shock.

That point being established, there's still been more to smile about in the early going this season than there was perhaps in the entirety of the 2018 campaign, what Rick Hahn described from the beginning as "the toughest part of the rebuild." That turned out to be prescient, with the White Sox losing 100 games. This year, the early season emergence of Tim Anderson, Yoan Moncada and, to a lesser extent, Eloy Jimenez have made it so there are exciting reasons to pay attention to what's going on on the South Side, all the while making for a lineup that can push across a good deal of runs.

Now imagine if Jose Abreu wasn't hitting below the Mendoza Line.

He's not anymore after a big night Monday, but the guy who's arguably still the team's best hitter when everything's right hasn't been right very often so far in 2019. That could be starting to change, though, and if it does, a lineup that's already a heck of a lot more threatening to opposing pitchers than it was at any point in 2018 could become even more fearsome, even more productive. And that leads to more wins, important not just for fans hoping for a surprise run at relevancy given the weak state of the division, but for a team building a lineup for the future that it hopes is scoring a whole bunch of runs in meaningful games in seasons to come.

Abreu went 3-for-5 in Monday night's 12-2 laugher in Baltimore, the White Sox bats looking even better with an opportunity to feast on Orioles pitching, which entered as the worst staff in the majors with a 6.21 ERA and owned a 6.37 ERA after Monday's blowout. But it's a three-game hitting streak for a guy whose average was down to .174 after Thursday's series-opener in Detroit. Since, he's 6-for-15 with a homer and seven RBIs.

Maybe it's just a nice three-game stretch, boosted by a chance to swing against the big leagues' worst pitching staff. But it allows the White Sox to dream about a lineup made ever more dangerous by the regular production of a two-time All Star and one of the AL's reigning Silver Sluggers.

Again, offense has not been the main reason the White Sox are still underwater, from a win-loss perspective, at this point. They aren't exactly blowing the doors off the league when it comes to their offensive prowess, middle of the pack in baseball with 106 runs scored this season. But they entered Monday's game with a 5.44 team ERA, one of the four worst marks in the bigs. The bullpen's ERAs are still on their way down after short outings from the starting staff in the season's first couple of weeks forced them into unenviable situations. One run allowed in Monday's bullpen day should help with that. The team ERA shot down to 5.27 after Monday's game, still not enough to vault them out of the bottom six teams in the league.

But reliable versions of Anderson (who's still hitting over .400), Moncada and Jimenez are pieces this lineup didn't have last year, and they've been three of the best parts of it so far in 2019. Leury Garcia has been quietly productive if not flashy while doing it. James McCann, who hit a three-run homer to start the scoring in Monday night's rout, has put up good numbers in limited time while splitting catching duties with Welington Castillo. Even Ryan Cordell, only the team's starting right fielder for a few days, has shown promise with a couple homers already. There have been holes, of course, chiefly Yolmer Sanchez — who was still hitting under .100 on April 13 but is now batting .231 after a three-hit night Monday — and the sent-down Daniel Palka. Abreu and Yonder Alonso, in the middle of the White Sox order, have been unproductive, as well, while the younger guys have flourished around them.

But an Abreu turnaround — or, really, an awakening, considering how early it still is — would boost the numbers and make the lineup capable of even more on a regular basis.

It could also be another factor in the ongoing conversation about a potential Abreu contract extension. While Hahn has suggested it's unlikely that such a deal would be struck during the season, it wouldn't be surprising to see it come before Abreu is set to hit free agency once the 2019-20 offseason begins. The White Sox are such big fans of what Abreu does in the clubhouse and as a mentor for younger players that production might not play as big a role as it normally would. But obviously the consistency of that production in Abreu's first five big league seasons certainly helps. To keep that production going with a late-April awakening would be all the more reason to keep Abreu around for the transition from rebuilding to contending.

The White Sox lineup has been promising to this point. It could become downright potent if Abreu starts knocking the ball around as we all know he can.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the White Sox easily on your device.