Paul Finebaum speaks at Little Rock Touchdown Club Part 3

Harvey Updyke Interview on The Paul Finebaum Show 4 21 11 Part 3

Bobby Petrino going to Tennessee later this year? I thought he would jump at the chance to do that. However, the Vols have looked pretty good this year and if they go into Miss St’s homefield this week and beat the #17 ranked Bulldogs and get on a roll then the Vols may end up ranked at the end of the year and be happy with Derek Dooley. Paul Finebaum is not buying that theory. He actually even said that Tennessee would not be interested in Petrino because of his baggage and everything they have been through recently.

I heard Finebaum speak on Oct 8, 2012 at the Little Rock Touchdown Club and below is the report from the Arkansas Sports 360 website:

10/8/2012 at 3:42pm

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Paul Finebaum, the Birmingham, Ala.-based national radio talk show host and sports columnist, had plenty of regional targets for his witty jabs Monday in a return visit to the Little Rock Touchdown Club.

Finebaum, who last visited the club in 2006 — just before Houston Nutt’s star rose again at Fayetteville and Mike Shula’s fell at Alabama — found plenty to work with just from the weekend, where the clownish John L. Smith finally got a Football Bowl Subdivision win as Arkansas’ head coach at the expense of the beleaguered Auburn head coach, Gene Chizik.

Finebaum admitted that Arkansas had “made my life easier since April 1,” when Bobby Petrino had his infamous motorcycle wreck that ultimately led to his firing nine days later.

Finebaum, ranked by one national sports site as one of the top 25 most influential figures in college sports, and only one of two media members on the list, said that Arkansas Athletic Director Jeff Long and the university are at a crossroads, much like what faced Alabama at the end of the 2006 season, before Crimson Tide AD Mal Moore continued to pursue Miami Dolphins Coach Nick Saban until he hired him.

Finebaum noted the university’s strong academic standing, like Alabama’s, but said there is a need for such a school to have a great football program as the face of the school.

“Jeff Long is about to make not only the most important decision in his career, but the most important decision in the history of the University of Arkansas,” Finebaum said.

Noting the entrance of neighbors Missouri and Texas A&M to the Southeastern Conference this year, Finebaum added, “A bad hire here is going to cripple the program for a long time. … He better get it right because from the people around here I’ve talked to, he has a short leash.

“We all talked about what a courageous decision [Long] made in the spring [firing Petrino]. It was the only thing he could do. … The damage to the program has been incalculable, but it can come back.”

Finebaum reminded the audience, who after six years might have thought Saban ran to Alabama, that the fact was Saban turned Moore down and West Virginia’s Rich Rodriguez briefly accepted the Tide head coaching job before having second thoughts. Moore was being scathed by columnists and TV commentators but “took a deep breath,” Finebaum said, went back after Saban and wouldn’t take no for an answer “and hired the best coach he could find.”

Who the current “next Nick Saban is” was a question even Finebaum couldn’t answer, nor could anyone who asked questions about the coaching search during a Q&A to wrap up the luncheon.

Finebaum did toss out the familiar names gracing most Hosg coaching search speculation reports, starting with Batesville native and UCA grad Charlie Strong, who last week attempted to distance himself from the Arkansas job and pledge his loyalty to a Louisville program that gave him his first head coaching job.

Other names of possibilities with even remote connections to the UA, and whether Finebaum thought they were viable, were Baylor’s Art Briles, former UA assistant and first-year UAB head coach Garrick McGee, Texas Tech’s Tommy Tuberville (greeted with silence by the crowd, by the way), Butch Davis (“he’d be a home run hire,” Finebaum said, “but does he have too much baggage?”), South Florida’s Skip Holtz and Arkansas State’s Gus Malzahn.

“Did anybody see the Auburn offense without Gus Malzahn?” Finebaum joked. “He can coach.”

Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen and Vanderbilt’s James Franklin were mentioned, as was Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart. “Is he hirable? I thnk the job he’s looking at is Tennessee,” Finebaum said.

TCU’s Gary Patterson “would be a slam dunk, but is he hirable,” Finebaum said, and Boise State’s Chris Peterson isn’t leaving Boise.

And, about the most recent Arkansas head coach who was unceremoniously disposed, Finebaum said, “Bobby Petrino makes more sense than the guy that’s in there now. But according to John L. Smith, he’s already signed up with Auburn.”

After the luncheon, with a handful of local media, Finebaum said he could see Petrino back in the game as a coordinator or perhaps as a head coach in the right situation. He said he believed Petrino was earnest in his public apology and his interview in August on ESPN, and friends of Petrino have convinced Finebaum that the former Hog head coach is not the same person he was before April 10.

“Right now in terms of the SEC, Kentucky is doable,” Finebaum said of possible Petrino landing spots. “I don’t think Tennessee is. Unfortunately I think most athletic directors are concerned with what people are going to say and think on the higher-up levels of the NCAA hierarchy taking a chance on someone who’s made a terrible mistake but projects to be a great hire.

“But I would hire him.”

Auburn, he said, would have to have a disastrous season for Chizik to lose his job two years after winning a national championship with quarterback Cam Newton, but Saturday’s 24-7 loss to Arkansas and a 1-4 start now makes it look like “a disaster zone” for the Tigers’ faithful.

“I think if that situation becomes more unbearable, [Petrino] becomes more hirable,” Finebaum said. “I really do believe he would make someone a phenomenal choice.”

But it won’t happen at Arkansas. Razorback fans, though, won’t have to fret if Strong is summoned, Finebaum indicated.

“Charlie Strong is the most intriguing name right now for a lot of the obvious reasons,” Finebaum said. “To me, Charlie would be dynamic. A lot of those names would. But this changes by the day, it’s like the Heisman, whoever has a bad game isn’t going to be the leader. But today Charlie Strong looks like the name you hear more about than any other.”

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