Did Jerry Jones Push Petrino to Arkansas?
Even if you’ve never met Jerry Jones, the omnipresent Dallas Cowboys owner, you feel like you know him.
Or at least someone like him.
Jones is your consummate Southern tycoon, with deep pockets and an insatiable greed for making everything bigger and better than ever before - and slapping his name on it to boot.
That’s why it shouldn’t be a surprise that Jones appears to have had a role - how prominent is up for debate - in coach Bobby Petrino bailing on the Atlanta Falcons just 13 games into his tenure with the team. Petrino resigned from his post on December 11, 2007, as Atlanta held a 3-10 record.
You see, Jones always gets what he wants.
In this case, he wanted Petrino to be the head coach at his alma mater, Arkansas, where Jones played football for the Razorbacks under legendary coach Frank Broyles.
Jones grew up in Arkansas and was an All-Southwest Conference offensive lineman for the Razorbacks and co-captain of their 1964 national championship team.
To no one’s surprise, Jones continues to be one of the program’s significant boosters. He also had been a good friend of Falcons owner Arthur Blank, whom Jones called on Thursday, December 6, 2007, according to Arkansassports360.com, to ask about Petrino’s availability while the coach was still the Falcons’ head man.
According to reports, Jones made it clear to Blank that he was not calling officially on behalf of the Razorbacks, though it certainly was in their interest. Blank reportedly referred Jones to then-general manager Rich McKay, who told Jones that Arkansas did not have permission to speak with Petrino.
A meeting between Blank and Petrino reportedly took place on Monday, December 10, 2007, in which the owner tried to determine how the coach felt about his future with the Falcons.
“I was looking for a commitment from Bobby and having some exposure on behalf of the franchise Monday night (heading into a primetime game with the New Orleans Saints),” Blank said, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
“(I) wanted to know, ‘Are you with us or not?’ I did press the question with him ... Bobby extended his hand and said, ‘You can tell them you have a head coach.’”
Blank’s aforementioned meeting with Petrino came on the same day the Falcons were crushed by the Saints, 37-14, and the day before Petrino resigned as coach to head to Fayetteville.
It took just five days from when Jones first inquired about Petrino to when he officially was a Razorback.
What happened in less than a week’s time? It’s unclear.
While Blank said Petrino didn’t have permission to speak with Arkansas, Broyles - then the outgoing Arkansas AD who was not directly involved in negotiations - had a different tune.
Said Broyles: “What I have heard that [Jones and Blank] are good friends. I was told Jerry got permission from Arthur Blank. Jerry talked to Arthur to get an interview. What happened after that, I don’t know.”
We probably will never know exactly what happened but it certainly appears that Petrino cut a deal behind Blank’s back, possibly with the help of Jones. What is clear is that Petrino has revived Arkansas’ program. After playing in the Sugar Bowl last year in Petrino’s third season at the school, the Hogs are currently ranked No. 6 in the country and will take on No. 8 Kansas State in the Cotton Bowl on Friday - at Cowboys Stadium, naturally.
And you better believe Jerry Jones will have his popcorn ready.