SCOTT: "Buisness Is Fixin' To Pick Up"

There is no doubt about it, "Business is fixin' to pick up."

Anyone who has ever watched the WWE's "Raw" on Monday nights has heard announcer Jim Ross use this phrase whenever a 'rassler comes to the ring to confront an adversary.

In the context of SEC football, the already demanding business of winning just rose to yet another level of difficulty with Arkansas' hiring of Bob Petrino.

In the big picture, Petrino isn't replacing Houston Nutt as the Razorbacks' coach. Instead, he's replacing former Ole Miss coach Ed Orgeron, adding yet another quality coach to the SEC landscape.

Think about it: With Nutt at Ole Miss, Petrino at Arkansas, and the recent progress of Kentucky and Mississippi State, this is the best overall group of SEC head coaches since the conference expanded and went to divisions in 1992. Even Duke recently tried to make a run at Vanderbilt's Bobby Johnson, only to have Johnson reaffirm his commitment to the Commodores.

South Carolina's Steve Spurrier, Tennessee's Phil Fulmer, Florida's Urban Meyer and Alabama's Nick Saban have all won national championships. Auburn's Tommy Tuberville produced an undefeated team in 2004. LSU's Les Miles gets his shot at a national title on Jan. 7.

Georgia's Mark Richt has led the Bulldogs to three SEC championship games and three BCS bowls. Nutt won two SEC Western Division titles at Arkansas, and Kentucky's Rich Brooks and Mississippi State's Sylvester Croom both led their programs out of NCAA probation to winning records and bowls. In 2008, Johnson will become the first coach to spend seven years at Vandy since the mid-1980s.

Spurrier, Saban, Brooks and Petrino all failed in the NFL, but who would you rather have coaching your team? Any of those four, or, say, Curley Hallman, Sparky Woods, Mike Shula, Rod Dowhower or Orgeron?

Now it's Petrino's turn. He did an excellent job at elevating Louisville's national status and had the Auburn job for a few days in 2003 before the coup to oust Tuberville collapsed – even though Tuberville had once hired Petrino as an offensive coordinator.

Petrino's name was also mentioned in connection with openings at LSU and Alabama before the NFL's Atlanta Falcons opened the bank to hire him last year.

"We wanted to find a proven coach that has an established track record of success on the field, a coach that could bring innovative ideas and philosophies to both sides of the football," new Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long said. "We wanted to find a coach that had won conference championships and, ideally, had competed and succeeded in the (BCS)."

Petrino is all that – and more, for better or worse. Arkansas fans will celebrate this hire and in time they will enjoy his wide-open offensive approach. They will also find out in the coming months that Arkansas didn't exactly hire Mr. Personality.

Former coaches Frank Broyles, Ken Hatfield, Jack Crowe and Nutt all brought character to the program. Petrino is a notorious curmudgeon who makes Saban look like a sweetheart. Just wait until the Atlanta Journal-Constitution digs in and gets Falcons players and front office personnel talking about Petrino's cold, impersonal treatment, his disregard for effective communication, and his ugly tirades toward professionals of all levels within the organization.

Two Falcons starters – cornerback DeAngelo Hall and tight end Alge Crumpler – criticized Petrino publicly during the season. Other players did it off the record. The media had to tell Joey Harrington he had lost his starting quarterback job to Byron Leftwich. Petrino wouldn't do it.

Petrino is also the man who looked Falcons owner Arthur Blank in the face – twice in recent weeks – and promised he would remain the Falcons head coach, not just for the rest of the season but for the 2008 season as well. The second time he made that promise he was gone less than 24 hours later. Assistant coaches told media outlets that he met with them for about 15-20 seconds to tell them of his decision to leave the organization and then walked out of the room.

Unlike Nutt, Petrino won't be shaking hands and kissing babies at booster events and bounding off the field with hands raised. If he wins big, Razorbacks fans might be willing to turn a blind eye to his behavior. Petrino inherits a loyal, devoted, and passionate fan base that eventually might come to question his way of doing things. But, as we saw in Nutt's case, the only fans who really seem to matter at Arkansas are the ones who give the most money. Think really big stores and frozen chicken.

Like him or not, Petrino's ability to coach just made the SEC landscape even more dangerous. Vandy isn't the pushover it once was (ask Tennessee, Georgia and South Carolina). Mississippi State can be tougher than Chinese arithmetic. Kentucky has developed an ability to turn unpolished diamonds into real gems. In time, Nutt will get Ole Miss on the right track.

There is no Duke, no Minnesota, no Baylor or Syracuse to beat up on during the conference schedule. Just one demolition derby after another.

"Interesting," Tuberville told the AJC when informed of Petrino's move to Arkansas. "Guess I had better go recruiting. ... This division is starting to look pretty strong."


Richard Scott is a Birmingham-based sports writer, author, and Tiger Rag's SEC expert. Reach him at

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