With Jacob linking to the audio of the Darek Braunecker interview in his last post, I can’t back away from a little good-natured competition!
To those who have found your way here from Wikipedia’s entry on Bobby Petrino…Welcome!
Despite the Wiki authors’ assertions that Darek Braunecker’s account is either controversial, “highly controversial,” or even disputed (during different edits of the Wiki), it’s interesting that they fail to provide any similar information or citation which counters Braunecker’s story. Such citation might include a rendition from someone familiar with Arthur Blank’s side but who does not rely on Blank for income like Braunecker relies neither on Coach Petrino nor Russ Campbell for any gain. Braunecker was never obligated to risk his own credibility or suffer controversy for Coach Petrino or Russ Campbell.
The passage of time proves that Arkansas is where Bobby Petrino wants to be. Bobby Petrino signed an unprecedented $18,000,000 buyout clause scaling down below $10,000,000 in 2016 which guarantees that he will remain Arkansas’ coach through 2017. The fact that Bobby Petrino would not leave Arkansas was predicted here and was based in part on Darek Braunecker’s account below.
Go grab a Coke and some pop corn or maybe some macho nachos, keep your thinking cap close by. Enjoy!
After many of us heard an interview on June 8, 2008, with Darek Braunecker on The Sports Animals with Shawn and Wally, a few things fell into place. The interview is transcribed below.
Flashback to 10 days or so before December 11, 2007, Coach Petrino’s hire date at Arkansas. Many of us listened to a competing local sports talk radio show, Drive Time Sports, featuring Randy Rainwater and former University of Arkansas Sports Information Director, Rick Schaeffer, when the hosts mentioned Atlanta Falcons’ Head Coach Bobby Petrino’s name seriously for the first time. As they explained, their source was a sports agent who was a friend of Bobby Petrino’s agent. Part of the source’s information was that Bobby Petrino really wanted the Arkansas job.
In my eyes, it was a little late. The search process for a new coach was in full swing and certainly candidates were already lined up. It must have been a pipe dream that Petrino really wanted to come to Arkansas. Even if he did, the cards had to fall his way.
Why even bring this up [in 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011]?
Bobby Petrino is too good of a coach not to draw interest from other schools! We need to understand how he came to Arkansas in order to fairly consider the new situations as they arrive…which brings us back around to the June 2008 interview with Darek Braunecker.
The interview takes us behind the scenes to show us how much Coach Petrino risked to come to Arkansas. Even then, circumstances outside the story support it. As Fans, we lived the back and forth game of another coaching drama.
Bobby Petrino sought permission, and the Atlanta Falcons’ management granted him permission to talk to Arkansas. Before any deal was done, the public relations nightmare of Michael Vick’s conviction on federal charges took over, and the THE FALCONS RENEGED. The Falcons decided that their organization did not want to endure both the federal felony conviction of their star quarterback AND the departure of their head coach in the same week.
However, the Arkansas Razorbacks needed a head coach, and the job would not stay open forever.
To my knowledge, this interview is not transcribed in its entirety elsewhere, and I’ve looked. I do not claim any interest in the work of KARN or ARSN related to this interview or to the fine work of Shawn Arnell, Wally Hall or others who secured this interview. Hog Database does not claim any rights either. Because this story warrants addressing areas beyond the scope of the interview, the transcript’s precision is necessary for comments provided.
Darek Braunecker is a Major League Baseball sports agent and partner in Frontline Sports Management. He currently represents Arkansans A.J. Burnett and MLB All-Star, Cliff Lee. Braunecker went to high school in Effington, Illinios, and played professional baseball. For a while, he worked with now defunct Little Rock-based Stephens Sports Management before creating Braunecker Sports Counsel, Inc. Later he partnered to form Frontline Sports Management.
“The Sports Animals” with Wally Hall and Shawn Arnell, KARN Radio, June 4, 2008 ^
Arnell: Along side Wally, this is Shawn Arnell we talked about it last week and talked about it and we’ll talk about it, we’ll talk about it right now throughout the course of the broadcast here tonight… about Darek told us last week, Darek told us last week about a very interesting story between Coach Petrino and the whole process and timeline, if you will, of him being in Atlanta and him landing in Fayetteville. And Darek, you don’t brag on yourself at all, but I’m telling you, and Wally it’s pretty safe to say, he had a, he had kind of, he had kind of a say so here, you were a….
Wally Hall [Senior Sports Editor of Arkansas Democrat Gazette, Arkansas's only statewide daily newspaper]: He was a player…
Shawn: You were a player. You were a player in Petrino landing in Arkansas. I know you won’t say that, but you were.
Wally: You just didn’t get paid.
Shawn: That’s why his other girlfriend right now is here to collect. (laughter)
Darek: Didn’t get paid. That’s funny, speaking of Mark Richt, he makes more in one series of snaps right now, you know, than he ever did in one year of bar tending…
Shawn: Isn’t that amazing.
Darek: the money that these guys make now, so you know what, they earn it. Period. They deserve it. They earn it. They’re commodities. They’re such a value to an organization, you know, to an institution, to a State, so, you know, he’s done a good job there for sure.
Shawn: And with Petrino coming in, now first of all, obviously, living in Arkansas, once the vacancy happened, and the previous coaching staff left and Colonel Dale went to Ole Miss, when did you, when did your phone start ringing, immediately when the vacancy was posted or was it a couple of days later or when did your phone start going off the hook?
Darek: No it’s actually nothing of the sort, it was ah…
Arnell: Thanks, Darek, I was building up for you…
Darek: (inaud.) (laughter in background) I thought that was by design.
Arnell: Yeah. (laughing)
Darek: But it really my role in this…it’s, really kind of elementary but at the same time it was it’s just kind of ironic where this is…it’s transpired… it kind of where this all process began… it really kind of in short, this is a long kind of drawn out story but I’ll give somewhat of a condensed version of it.
I was at the Major League Baseball winter meetings in Nashville last off season, and we had scheduled a dinner with actually the head baseball at LSU, the head baseball coach at the University of Virginia, my two partners and an attorney that works on some of our arbitration cases, and that attorney so happened to be Russ Campbell out of Birmingham and Russ is a long-time friend of mine and is a very very dear friend of mine of one of my partners, Mark Rogers, but Russ came to Nashville for a couple of days to visit with us on some of our potential arbitration cases. We met him off-site from the Hotel, Gaylord Hotel, which is where the winter meetings were to kind of have a little privacy and have a quiet dinner with these guys. And when Russ entered the lounge as we were waiting on our table to come available, he approached me immediately and asked who I knew at the University of Arkansas and I like to think that I know everybody but that’s not necessarily the case but I said I certainly know enough people that, you know, I can get into contact with someone if necessary. Immediately he told me that a…he said, you know, I represent Bobby Petrino and I said yeah I’m aware of that and he said Bobby Petrino wants the job at Arkansas.
[Added: This point is critical. While it's not terribly difficult to have connections in Arkansas, the amount of "noise" coming into Jeff Long and the Arkansas Trustees would have been tremendous. Sometimes it takes a contact like this in order to be heard!]
Arnell: Now when you heard that, what was your first reaction?
Darek: …That we could never afford that…
[Translated: In other words it was obvious to Mr. Braunecker that if Bobby Petrino truly wanted to come to Arkansas that Coach Petrino's decision was based upon something other than money because Bobby Petrino would have to accept less money for any deal with Arkansas. ]
Darek: But a…
Arnell: (laughing) That’s good.
Darek: But a… you know I was surprised but I know when Russ makes a statement of that nature that I know it wasn’t agent speak that it was something that… you know he was very serious and he looked me right in the eye, and I said ah… you’re serious about this, and he said yeah I’m serious as a heart attack about this Darek and the fact of the matter is he doesn’t just want this job, I mean, he really cherishes this job, and he said immediately that the NFL is not for him. He said, it’s become very apparent.
He said that the job in Atlanta was somewhat misrepresented and obviously with what transpiring in the Michael Vick situation and Coach Petrino obviously being an, you know, an offensive-minded coach and obviously loosing the heart of your offense under such unusual circumstances is difficult but also there was some player personnel issues that, I think he was told when he took the job that he was going to have control over that ultimately didn’t really come to fruition like it was presented to him. But nonetheless, my impression was that he was just a… he really didn’t enjoy, didn’t like, the NFL game and everything that comes along with it…which isn’t uncommon which is what a lot of these college coaches say that when they go onto that level.
He asked me if I could reach out to somebody at the University, and immediately I called for one of my best friends here in Little Rock, Jon Wickliffe,who’s a pharmaceutical rep and, it’s kind of funny, but various players in this story… but I knew that Jon was close to a couple of the Board members, one being Dr. Carl Johnson in particular. And I’d actually during this time had attempted to reach out to Norm DeBriyn, a former baseball coach at Arkansas. I don’t know Jeff Long and still to this day I don’t know Mr. Long, but … you know, he was new on the job and I didn’t have access to him at that point, but … called Coach DeBriyn, he was at a function and had a hard time hearing me, and we weren’t really able to have a conversation that I was looking forward to…
[Added: "He said immediately that the NFL is not for him. He said, it's become very apparent."
This is one of those statements when a person is on live media that needs to be overlooked. Bobby Petrino's career is not a secret. Prior to the Falcons, he spent three seasons as an NFL assistant coach at Jacksonville. Two were spent as the quarterback coach and one as the offensive coordinator. Petrino Understood -- Part I
While three years isn't a terribly long time, people have a tendency to figure out whether things are or aren't "for them" within three years.
In the latter part of the paragraph, Braunecker gives a much more plausible explanation for Petrino's dissatisfaction at Atlanta regarding the circumstances under which Petrino accepted the job.
When anyone says that he is from _______ville in Arkansas and the response is, "Oh yeah? I'm good friends with __________, do you know him?" it is a way of networking through people to others as influential as Arkansas Board of Trustees member, Carl Johnson, M.D., in all sorts of closely knit communities around the state. ]
Arnell: (shouting) Petrino wants to come up there (laughter) can you help me?
Darek: So I… Jon… when I reached out to my friend Jon Wickliffe, he gave me Carl Johnson’s number [added: Not as a slight to an interviewee in a live interview, but out of respect for the man and his position, he is Carl Johnson, M.D.], and told him what I was calling in regards to…call him right now and let’s get on this thing. So I called Carl Johnson. We kinda went through the back road, I guess, through the back door on this whole process, but nonetheless, I called Dr. Carl Johnson. He’s a Board member for the University and he, ah, took my call and I informed him of exactly what I was calling in regards to.
His immediate reaction was exactly the way I told you I reacted. Surely, you know, he’s probably looking for the same kind of money…and how Dr. Johnson knew that Bobby Petrino was making almost $5,000,000 per year is a mystery to me and still is to this day. He said immediately, you know, I don’t think I don’t think that we could afford that, could we? And I said well, you know, I’m standing here with his agent. I know he’s not anticipating being paid what he’s being paid in the NFL. He’s willing to take a considerable pay cut for this job. This is the job he wants. I’m telling you he wants this job and we can get this run up the flagpole to the necessary people.
So Dr. Johnson immediately then, you know…It’s my understanding that he reached out to, kind of, to some of the other board members, and he called me back and he said Darek, it is my understanding that they’ve offered the job to Tuberville. No, I’m sorry, to Tommy Bowden. And while I’m standing next to Russ, I ask, I tell Russ that this is the information that I’m getting, and Russ’s response is I’m not worried about Tommy Bowden. Tommy Bowden is not taking that job. Tommy Bowden is leveraging Clemson in this situation. I represent Tommy Bowden’s father, Bobby Bowden. So I know what’s going on here. (laughter)
[Added: Tuberville?? It was played as a slip of the tongue, but as time goes on, more and more media personnel have stated that they believe Tuberville was offered the Arkansas job.]
[Added: From our point of view (or at least mine), my blog read as Tommy Bowden’s name was thrown into the ring…
It looks like an Arkansans need a little help again from Mick, Lindsey, Stevie, Jon & Christine. They ought to oblige since Mr. Clinton prodded them back together for his 1992 inauguration party.
Mr. Long [begin the musky jungle beat] –
Why don’t you ask him if he’s going to stay?
Why don’t you ask him if he’s going away?
Why don’t you tell me what’s going on?
Why don’t you tell me who’s on the phone?
Why don’t you ask him what’s going on?
Why don’t you ask him who’s the latest on his throne?
– (Sharp) Tusk
Now that we’ve taken a run at the Chik-fil-a bowl coaches and a University of Michigan defensive coordinator whose defense lost to Appalchian State, the sad thing is that it can only go down from here.
Getting turned down by Tommy Bowden is like hearing “no” from a slumpbuster!
Hire Herring or Malzahn and get this over with! The hire will be critical (say DOA) if he has no recruiting class. ]
Arnell: That’s awesome. [Obviously, this is not referring to my commentary!]
Darek: So I immediately conveyed that to Dr. Johnson to quell those issues… so, so Dr. Johnson then said he would be in touch with me the next morning, that he was going to to continue to make some phone calls and get back to me so I told Russ that, you know, look they’re gonna…we got that we got information at least that, you know, getting to the appropriate people and we’ll kind of sit back and see what happens.
The next morning, Tuesday morning, actually my wife and daughter were with me at the winter meeting so my wife got to witness this first hand which was really funny, but ah, Dr. Johnson called me first thing that morning and said, asked me if I could leak the idea to one of the media…
[There is likely an audio edit at this point, but it continues…]
Arnell: Back to the task at hand. So right now Darek you’ve got this going into the break. Coach Petrino was starting to… the ball’s rolling, they’ve got some momentum going, they’ve got some momentum going on right now, Board Members know what’s going on. They know that Bowden’s not coming to Arkansas despite being offered, using the leverage from Clemson, so take it from there.
Darek: Right, so Dr. Johnson called me the next morning and asked me to leak the idea, this kind of, really the idea, because it wasn’t even a story, to the media here locally, and asked me if put a couple of media members in touch with me while I was conducting my day job over at Nashville.
[Added: This is the reference at the beginning of this entry to Drive Time Sports. This writer along with thousands of others heard Bobby Petrino's name associated for the first time with the Arkansas job.]
Darek: (cont.) And I told him certainly we could to that.
So I got a phone call and later that afternoon it was leaked here locally, I know, on this one radio station and a couple possibly, but nonetheless really to gauge what the public’s response would be to it and quite frankly it was my idea to do so, that maybe, if nothing else, anything else, to put little pressure on people here locally to allow them to understand that this is real. This guy really seriously wants this job.
I think that’s the hardest thing for the University to grasp… that Bobby Petrino really wants this job and still I think that the fan base right now feels that way. You know, I mean there’s so many people in discussions I’ve had with them think that Bobby Petrino is here to re-establish himself and then move on. I think just the opposite. I absolutely don’t believe that’s the case. I believe he’s hear to build a nationally prominent program for an extended period of time. He recognizes he can leave here in a legendary state sometime and probably via retirement.
But nonetheless when I had done so I then got the response from some of the media members that it was really an overwhelmingly favorable response that they were getting and that we needed, you know, really to move to do whatever we could to try to facilitate this. Later that afternoon or that evening is when I guess officially they had acknowledged that Bowden wasn’t coming, and it was rather quiet that evening. Wednesday afternoon we had no dialogue, or coach Petrino’s camp had no dialogue with the University. And on my way home, driving back from Nashville, actually, I got a phone call from Russ Campbell, again, Coach Petrino’s agent, and he informed me at that time, terribly disappointed, he was terribly, terribly disappointed that he had just spoken to Jim Grobe’s agent and that the University had offered the job to Grobe. It’s still at this point I don’t think that they took seriously that Bobby Petrino was really interested in this job.
[If it is accurate that Petrino sought the position and the University of Arkansas administration knew of his interest, then this is one mistake that doesn't need to happen again. At least some contact should have been formally made with the Petrino camp when a coach like Petrino says he wants to come to Arkansas, at least before the job is offered elsewhere!]
Arnell: Were you like, at this point, where did this come from?
Darek: Yeah, very much so…as was everybody. I mean he was not really a candidate of consideration up to that point. But he informed me of that. I then, in turn, called one of the media members here locally and informed him of this and it was probably less than two minutes later he called me back and confirmed that he had just seen it on the ticker, and that, you know, again it was shock and dismay as it was with the fan base here locally.
[Give Braunecker credit here. A Grobe hire wasn't going to come as nearly to settling the animosity and bitterness created as Houston Nutt was leaving as much as throwing the ball effectively down the field was going to heal wounds! Much later than this interview, the idea that a passing offense would soothe Arkansas Razorbacks' Fans' wounds can be described is in Happy the Burden has Passed which looks at unrealized promises made since the early 1990s regarding Arkansas Razorbacks football through the departure of Houston Nutt.]
Darek: (cont.) So we got back home that evening assuming that Jim Grobe was, and a matter of fact later that evening, I guess he did accept the job. That morning, on my way to my office, I got a phone call again from Russ, and he said at that time, you know, he was obviously a completely different tone in his voice he said, “Jim Grobe is backing out of the deal at Arkansas.”
[As Grobe apparently took then Arkansas job and, then, for the love of all things Razorback he backed out, I wrote in my blog:
"Arkansas -- We've Been Grobed"
I feel violated. Grobed.
Darek: (cont.) And he said what do we have to do to get, you know, to make Bobby a legitimate candidate there, and I said is sounds to me like we probably need to go back to the Board. So we did so again.
I got Jon Wickliffe involved in situation again. He was certainly kind of my go between, and he reached back out to Dr. Johnson and Sam Hilburn here locally again, I believe, and anyway kind of got the ball back in place, so to speak. At that point is when the University kind of re-engaged in discussions with Russ and came to the realization that indeed, he was a candidate and that he really did want this job. And I think at that point that they finally realized this was the guy, if they could get him, they were going to put the full court press and effort to do so.
Obviously Jeff Long’s position at that time was we can’t afford to have this fall apart again. They missed on the Bowden deal, and then obviously with Coach Grobe backing out of it the last thing they could do is afford to kind of engage in the process and it not come to fruition once again. So I know they did so from this point on it was rather concealed the discussion but on Friday evening then I got a call again from Russ and he said, he was very optimistic that something was going to happen. He said that, and this is where it really got interesting, that they had approached Arthur Blank, the owner of the Atlanta Falcons, and Rich McKay who was the GM at the time.
Arnell: The Board did.
Darek: Actually no, I’m sorry, Russ and Coach Petrino had approached him about the possibilities of essentially just exiting the contract. And it’s my understanding that Arthur Blank’s response was that he never had an employment contract with his employees, particularly his executives at Home Depot. He didn’t necessarily believe in it and that he realized that the circumstances were much different than when Coach Petrino took the job and that essentially he gave him his blessing to pursue the opportunity.
At that time, Russ conveyed this to the University of Arkansas and that’s when the deal really started to take shape. I know at that time as well Russ had informed him that if the deal wasn’t done by midday Saturday that they would kind of have to table it, the idea, until the first of the week because Coach Petrino needed to focus on preparing his team for the Monday Night Football game.
[“Arthur Blank’s response was that he never had an employment contract with his employees, particularly his executives at Home Depot.” The Petrino camp’s credibility hinges on this seemingly far-fetched point. If true, consider the implications.
1. Petrino has been up front with his employer.
2. Laying his desire to pursue the Arkansas job on the line, Petrino risked his own continued employment with the Falcons.
3. Arthur Blank gave Petrino his permission to negotiate with Arkansas.
4. Even if the last statement is equivocal, if Home Depot and the Falcons treat the employment situation such that either can walk away, then under the rules of the organization, Petrino was free to pursue other opportunities.
5. Petrino had the intelligence and the kahunas to assess and execute the situation.
6. Petrino really wanted the Arkansas job.
7. The Atlanta Falcons were completely, unequivocally unfair and acted outrageously when Petrino left the Falcons.
8. Petrino could ignore media reports and remain unfazed by the firestorm because he knew he was correct.
So is it true that Arthur Blank would tell Bobby Petrino that his employees don’t have an employment contract?
“It is an employment contract, and it has been in the spotlight since some chief executives have been ousted with golden goodbyes — Robert Nardelli’s [Home Depot's previous CEO] $210 million exit package from Home Depot being the most recent. Employment contracts have been blamed for virtually guaranteeing such huge payouts even when an executive fails.” No CEO Contract? No CEO Contract?, Herald Tribune [url is now a dead link]
But that wasn’t the only reference to no contract for the next Home Depot CEO. It was written by Joann S. Lublin, Ann Zimmerman and Chad Terhune of The Wall Street Journal.
Mr. Nardelli’s successor, Mr. Blake, is a former GE colleague of his. Mr. Blake offered the advantage of being an established insider. That spared Home Depot a protracted period of uncertainty during an external search, and eliminated the need for it to dole out any “make whole” payments to anyone leaving another company, as Mr. Nardelli had received.
Directors are still working out final details of Mr. Blake’s pay deal. They already have decided that Mr. Blake won’t have an employment contract as CEO, the second person familiar with the matter says, and that elements of his pay package will resemble “what shareholders have been asking for.” Behind Nardelli’s abrupt exit, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.com, January 4, 2007
Ultimately CEO Frank Blake had an employment contract at Home Depot but any severance provisions are hard to come by. His compensation was guaranteed to be at $8.9 million per year for running all of Home Depot while Bobby Petrino was making about $5 million per year coaching a football team. Let’s assume for a moment that some measure of truth existed in the excerpt from The Wall Street Journal. The statements from the reporters’ source(s), at the very least, could be interpreted as some sentiment which existed at Home Depot, whether practical or not.
Blank and Home Depot were burned by almost the amount of an A-Rod contract for someone who was no longer performing for the corporation. Excessive contracts, huge severance packages, and how to avoid paying money to someone who has left the organization were part of Home Depot’s corporate consciousness.
This critical fact is ultimately believable and reasonable. Blank would allow Petrino to leave.]
Arnell: So Darek, is it your position that if that would have happened before Saturday the whole firestorm afterward may not have happened. I mean do you think that.
Darek: I don’t know that it was, I don’t know that it was possible because, you know, quite frankly,I know there was some exchange of dialogue and some contractual issues that were being worked out. The salary was never essentially never negotiated.
[Petrino's contract was published later but was still in a state of flux as it sounds as thought it was modified again after his first year as terms of the contract reported more recently aren't included in the one published earlier.]
Darek: (cont.) The fact of the matter… this is again, this is in support of Coach Petrino, what people have to understand, is that, essentially, I mean, he took a significant pay cut to accept this job. And it essentially was a non-negotiated salary, it was a salary that the University came in. They recognized his position. They were very fair.
[The initial Contract was purportedly worth $2.85 million placing him 5th in the SEC at that time. A Google cache page of coacheshotseat.com rankings is here.]
Darek: (cont.) They made an offer that, you know, had been kind of framed before through Coach Petrino’s camp as to what really, you know, they believe fair market value to be and the University stepped in, and essentially, you know, met that, and so there was minimal if any negotiations, and again, to me that’s a tribute to Coach Petrino and his desire to pursue this job. Nonetheless, the, you know, so obviously, the legal jargon and you know the language of the contract, or the letter of agreement and everything else was kind of put into motion but they weren’t able to conclude the deal by midday Saturday. Coach Petrino then obviously prepared to coach his team for the Monday Night Football game and make the announcement after the fact. What transpired from there until midday Monday is still kind of up to debate, so to speak, but nonetheless, midday Monday is actually when Michael Vick was sentenced, and that’s when the public relations department and the General Counsel for the Atlanta Falcons had come to the ownership and essentially said we can’t afford the public relations firestorm of our star player being convicted and sentenced and us loosing our head coach in the same day. Essentially at that point is when they retreated. They changed course 100%, when I say they, I’m talking about the Falcons ownership and management. And essentially at that point told Coach Petrino that they weren’t going to allow him out of the contract and if he were to attempt to do so it was going to be a very very vigorous battle.
[My blogging take didn't take much thought...
Arnell: (laughing) Putting it lightly.
Darek: So anyway, trying to be as politically correct as possible, but nonetheless, they were no longer giving him their blessing to pursue this opportunity.
So I got a phone call actually at a, and it’s my understanding that Coach Petrino and his family were absolutely devastated by this because, they, through the weekend it was going to be an amicable departure and a, they were, just a separation and he was going to be able to pursue this opportunity and they were going to move on and try to find their next head coach. But lawyers got involved. Public relations people got involved, so on and so forth, and they changed course, basically did a complete 180 in this situation.
At that time then, I got a phone call at half time, then, I got a phone call at halftime, actually, from Russ and he informed me that the deal was dead, quote unquote. He said Darek, “The deal is dead. I’ll give you more information on it after the game.” (Arnell laughing) So I’m thinking all weekend, heck, we’re getting Coach Petrino and I’ll have to stay as tight-lipped as possible, but nonetheless, we then… Russ called me late after the game that night, and again, he was just he was so disappointed and understand something, I mean, Russ Campbell gets paid a percentage, you know, I mean, this is a considerable reduction in fees for him as the agent, you know, the attorney for the.. and so, I mean, he had a monetary, he had some sort of monetary compensation at stake here as well. He supported his client 100% in his endeavors. And so, at that time he said, Darek I’d do anything I could, you know, to get him to Arkansas at this point. It’s just the deal is dead.
They don’t, I know Arkansas and understandably they don’t want to fight this fight or they’re not willing to fight this fight, but he’s just so terribly disappointed, but it looks like he’s going to remain here in Atlanta. I suggested at that time, Russ stay in Atlanta and see what Bobby’s thoughts were the next morning when he woke up, and kind of let him make a decision at the heart from that point.
Darek: So he, Russ decides he’s going to stay there and, you know, really see what transpired Monday morning, really what Coach Petrino’s mindset was, and I guess, at that point, just he had come to the realization that this deal really wasn’t going to happen but at the same, I guess, as much as anything to kind of console him, to encourage him just to rededicate himself to his current employer and to move on throughout the remainder of the season.
So, but, it’s funny, it was again this was, so, gosh this was after midnight that night and one more time I called Jon Wickliffe and I mentioned to him, hey, look, this is just to kind of keep you informed because you’ve been so instrumental in this process. This deal is dead. It’s off. It’s not going to happen. Unfortunately, we’re not going to get the guy and so on and so forth. So that’s the way I went to bed.
I got into my office the next morning, it was about 8:40 and Russ and I guess Coach Petrino and his wife had been up the better part of the night really, you know, just a debating what to do. What their willingness and kind of pain threshold was, so to speak, and pursuing this opportunity and quite frankly as much as anything, I guess, trying to determine whether or not they could get the University of Arkansas re-engaged in these discussions or what their willingness might be to follow through with this. That morning I get in my office, and it was, actually, I saved the text message, but at a, about 8:40 that morning I got a text from, from Russ, and it says, as actually I can still read the text for you, “The sad part is BP wanted this so bad. He just told me if Arkansas would do it, he’d walk in tomorrow, terminate the contract, and dare them to fight. I just don’t know if the University will do that. No way this is as bad as the Saban stuff.” The Saban stuff meaning when Nick Saban had left Miami and, you know, they tarnished his, or attempted to tarnish his reputation. It was somewhat tarnished, I guess, before he took the job at Miami in the first place.
But nonetheless, they ah, they ah decided at that point, that was the concern, and I know that was the University’s concern, and that was Coach Petrino’s concern and everything else. I got the text message and about that moment once again. Jon walks into my office, and he sees a stunned look on my face and I tell him at that point, I said you gotta hear this. I mean this is something, and I don’t know that there’s anything that we can do about it but quite frankly I think that a you know we need to get this information to the appropriate people. I read him the text message, and Jon is a, actually Jon’s a very connected individual in the city, but he’s a good friend of Dr. Alan Sugg as well. And Jon called Dr. Sugg and got directly through to him and simply said, “Dr. Sugg, I’m sitting in, you know, my friend’s office right now, my buddy’s office and he’s a sports agent, so on and so forth and he’s got a text message that he’d like to read to you.”
And so Dr. Sugg graciously took our call and I read the text message to him and I simply said, you know, that I’ve spoken to his agent once again and if you guys are willing to engage in this battle, I know he’s ready to go to war. Dr. Sugg simply thanked us said, you know, we will do what we can do and see if we can get this deal closed.
Arnell: And it was closed.
Darek: And it was closed. Oh man. Alright four minutes left. You’ve had us on the edge of your seat, Darek Braunecker, and shame on you for doing that, but lets try it again. So now…
Wally: Petrino’s ready to fight the Falcons.
Arnell: Is the plane there now or not?
Darek: If it’s there at this point I’m not aware of it, I know that ah
Darek: when Dr. Sugg hung up the phone, he simply said, you know, he said Darek we have to be absolutely certain that if we’re going forward with this we’re going to be able to close it. That’s exactly what he said. And ah, I said you have my assurance for what that’s worth to you, Dr. Sugg, that a you get down there, you get in front of him, you’re going to get him on a plane today. And, ah, he thanked us and he said that he was going to be in touch with the appropriate people and try to get someone there immediately. And gosh probably 3 or 4 hours later, I got a text message from Russ and said the plane has landed. And about five o’clock that afternoon, yeah it was about five o’clock our time so about six o’clock eastern time, I was actually with my wife at the Pottery Barn, at this point and I get text message…
Arnell: Leave that part out Darek. Don’t mention that part. Man or I’d…it’s such a manly don’t throw the Pottery Barn in this thing. Man are you kidding me?
Darek: I get a text message that, ah, we got the deal done. I appreciate all your help, and I explained that, I read that to my wife, she actually had to sit down. She kind of started chuckling. She said this has been an interesting week hon. I said yeah it has. She said it’s kind of the most elementary thing I’ve seen you be a part of. She was surprised at my role. She was surprised at my role, I know that, but everybody, all the players involved, but at the end of the day, I think he most kind of compelling thing about this whole story is quite frank… just the desire that Coach Petrino had to come here to, you know, to go through the necessary means to ensure that he was the next coach at the University of Arkansas. The guy that took it, ah, again, I mean certainly he is not struggling monetarily, but ah, he took a considerable pay cut, and, you know, this is the job I know that he wanted.
Wally: I know you said Russ took a pay cut in all this negotiation because he cared about his client, but it sounds like to me, you worked about as hard as he did and you got nothing.
Darek: Well, at least I didn’t take a pay cut.
Arnell: (laughter) Always an agent. Now put your fan hat on for a second here to if you would and as you go, I lost my thought here real quick, looking at how this whole process went down with Coach Petrino….
Wally: You know, Shawn wants him fired if he’s not, after two years…
Arnell: I didn’t say that, dude. Wally come on. You said, you said…
Wally: I said he should get three years to rebuild the program and you said only two.
Arnell: We talked about a grace period, that’s what we talked about here also, but ah, Coach Petrino coming in… as a fan and going from what you know to a fan mode, are you surprised at the storm that erupted once he left Atlanta, did that surprise you? Knowing what you knew during the whole process, Darek and now you become a fan, knowing he’s there, were you surprised at what happened to him coming out of Atlanta?
Darek: No not at all because I think they had, you know, had kind of prepared him and , you know,through just, just my connection to that camp we all had kind of prepared ourselves for you know the backlash. And that’s something that we talked about, Russ and I talked about rather extensively that morning that you just have to understand that when this happens that a they’ve already warned you that there’s going to be some backlash. You know, they ah, and certainly not defending the Atlanta Falcons, but, I mean, their running a business and you’re talking about millions and millions at stake and the reputation and the things that they were enduring at that time, talking about significant monetary losses through that sequence of events. So, you know, they were kind of protecting their own turf so to speak but what I think, what Russ did the best job of through the process was just kind of keeping Coach Petrino insulated from the issue to a degree and also to ensure him that at some point this is going to blow over just as everything else does.
Arnell: And so, yes here, this answer yes or no, so when you hear Petrino say he had no idea what was really going on in Atlanta, you really believe that don’t you?
Darek: I absolutely. I don’t believe that, I know that to be fact.
Arnell: Wow good stuff. Darek Braunecker, can’t thank you enough man, good luck to Cliff Lee and your agents. Hey have a good draft this week down in Orlando. We wish you nothing but the best. Darek Braunecker, agent, right here in Arkansas represents Cliff Lee and A.J. Burnett. Wally Hall, Shawn Arnell, ARN… [END]
When the issue returns, and it will, look to see if the Full Story is told.
When you hear about Petrino’s next suitor, you’ll know that it took a tremendously stressful effort for Petrino to get to Arkansas. He battled for Arkansas.
The decency of Arkansas in negotiating fairly with Petrino deserves not only the consideration of the large buyout clause, but it also deserves consideration when the next coaching job comes up.
Even as long as this particular post is, Bobby Petrino’s career choices and demeanor all point to him wanting to remain in the SEC. He wants to beat the best to be the best.
Although not addressed in the interview above, one area Arkansas could have conceivably pushed a little harder was in trying to secure a more expansive “Houston Nutt Clause.” Very broad non-compete clauses won’t be upheld by Courts, but who knows what the Courts would do if the restriction applies to only 12 of 120 DI schools. The problem is that Petrino’s contract only prohibits him from accepting positions at SEC WEST schools, leaving the possibility of him entertaining offers from Tennessee, Florida, and Georgia!
^Every effort was made to make this transcript as accurate as possible. Live radio and measured words will invariably result in sounds such as “aaaaa” or “you know, aaaa” which were edited sparingly for readability.
Before it’s lost to archive oblivion, AL.com’s Scarblog -Sports news and commentary from Kevin Scarbinsky of The Birmingham News had a similar version to the story above from December 14, 2007 as referenced by ArkansasSport360.com’s Lance Turner. Another similar article is located in the Atlanta Journal-Constituion’s archive as well.
Bobby Petrino’s agent fires back at Atlanta Falcons
Russ Campbell has watched Bobby Petrino take shot after shot since leaving the Atlanta Falcons for Arkansas. AL.com
On Thursday, Campbell, who represents Petrino, fired back.
“Bobby Petrino was blindsided,” Campbell told me in a 30-minute phone conversation. “I was blindsided. Arkansas was blindsided.”
How so? Campbell said from the time they hired Petrino last January and signed him to a contract without a buyout, the Falcons assured the coach of something. They would not stand in his way should he decide to return to the college game.
Campbell said Falcons owner Arthur Blank reiterated that pledge to Petrino “two or three weeks ago.”
Atlanta’s attitude changed Monday, Campbell said, “and it wasn’t a subtle change. They said, if you leave, we’ve got to fight you.”
Last week, Campbell said, Arkansas called him to express serious interest in Petrino and he told Falcons General Manager Rich McKay that Petrino wanted to talk to Arkansas.
On Sunday, Campbell said, he told McKay that some of Petrino’s issues with the Falcons were “irreparable.”
“I told him,” Campbell said, “you can’t fix the fact that he’s miserable in the NFL and his family’s miserable in Atlanta.”
Petrino had other issues. “One of the main issues,” Campbell said, “was the owner’s involvement in the football program.”
Blank assured Petrino a year ago that he would stay out of the way if that’s what the coach wanted, Campbell said, but “he’s in it up to his elbows.”
One meddlesome example: After a pregame team prayer, Blank pulled Petrino aside and strongly objected to the prayer’s wording.
“Think about this,” Campbell said. “How bad do the issues have to be to make a man walk away from $10 million and subject himself to the criticism he knew would follow?”
That number’s the difference between Petrino’s Atlanta contract and his five-year, $14.25-million Arkansas deal. It includes a $2.85 million buyout and a clause prohibiting him from leaving for another SEC West school.
Campbell said Petrino – after a root canal – went into Monday’s meeting with Blank and McKay thinking they would let him talk to Arkansas.
“His absolute desire on Monday was to finish the season in Atlanta,” Campbell said, “and, if offered, take the Arkansas job. He wanted to meet (with the Falcons) on Monday to strategize on how to make it happen.”
Campbell said Blank and McKay told Petrino, “There’s no way you can talk to Arkansas. If you do, we’ll make it ugly and embarrassing.”
So, Petrino felt he had no choice but to stay. Campbell called Arkansas AD Jeff Long and said, “It’s over.”
But after Monday night’s loss to New Orleans, during an emotional late night at the Petrino house – “his wife was very, very upset,” Campbell said – Petrino called his agent. The coach told him, if the Arkansas job was still available, he was willing to take the heat to take it.
On Tuesday, he did. Petrino’s been under fire since.
“Criticize Bobby Petrino,” Campbell said. “Fair game. But the Atlanta Falcons bear a lot of responsibility in this. The NFL isn’t a virgin league. Arthur Blank fired Dan Reeves, a Hall of Fame coach, with three games left in the (2003) season. These people in these shiny glass houses need to think before they throw stones.”