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Rumorology: Stranger than Fiction

Remembering those times a true story started on a message board.

Message boards have their value for any number of reasons, but every once in a while, one of them is that you can actually learn about a real story before it breaks.

Message board legends like BelowPar, Tigerlawyer, etc... have built their reputations by breaking stories well before they hit the mainstream. Sometimes it’s something run-of-the-mill — remember Shadysgate in August, 2011? — but sometimes we see the truly weird start to develop through the online rumor mill and then slowly start to seep out.

1. Bobby Petrino Wrecks His Motorcycle

Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we ride a motorcycle....something like that.

Anyways, fresh off two straight 10-win seasons, Arkansas head coach Bobby Petrino wrecked his motorcycle on a spring Sunday morning.

He had a passenger. A young, female one. That was neither his wife nor any sort of kin. Petrino has never been a particularly popular guy, but originally most in the college football community were mostly just glad he was okay. Real life and all that, right? But it didn’t take long for questions to arise.

I’ll let friend of the site Bunkie Perkins tell the rest....

So I dont remember the full progression of how the Bobby Petrino story unfolded but basically it started as someone saying that he had been in an accident on Highway 16 near Crosses, Ar. For reference, thats just like 30 minutes or so outside of Fayetteville along some pretty scenic and winding highway through the Ozarks. That’s all we knew for a while.

He showed up at that news conference with a neck brace. It was a real holy shit visual, but for about 24 hours everyone thought that was pretty much the end of it.

Then it started to leak that someone was with him. Then it went from speculation to outright confirmation once the police report came out and showed that it was Jessica Dorrell. Immediately the message boards went to searching an pretty quickly figured out that she was a former volleyball player and Petrino’s current assistant. It was about this time that people started posting that she was engaged to someone on the athletic staff. It was confirmed that it was Josh Morgan, who was a swimming assistant coach.

And that’s pretty much when all hell broke loose.

There were rampant message board rumors that Morgan and some of his friends had found Petrino and Dorrell riding together, ran them off the road, and then proceeded to beat Bobby Petrino up. I still really like that version of the story, and here’s why...I went out to the crash site like a week after it happened. Petrino had said that he came around a curve and was blinded by the sun and then ran off the road and laid the bike down. Plausible enough until you see the area where he crashed. First of all, there was no curve. It was a soft bend if anything but it was pretty much straight. Second, there’s no way the sun blinded him. There’s a HUGE tree canopy around there. It allegedly happened mid to late afternoon. The sun would absolutely be under the tree line in that instance. The direction of the road also didn’t lend itself to looking directly into the sun even if there wasn’t a canopy.

All that to say is I actually kind of believe the wilder message board rumors on this one. Anyway, after that, everything is out in the open, Petrino gets fired by Jeff Long like 10 days later and they make JOHN EL the interim.

As he says, more details came out, and it became clear that not only did Bobby Petrino blatantly lie about his relationship to athletic director Jeff Long, he also hired his mistress to a state job, a massive liability no-no.

Prologue to this: Jessica Dorrell and the swim coach STILL WENT AND GOT MARRIED AFTER ALL OF THIS!!! That may be the wildest part of a very wild story.

2. Jetgate

Petrino gets a reference in the top two seeds here. Almost as if there’s something sketchy about the guy.

Going into the 2003 season, Auburn was a popular preseason pick in the SEC. Even grabbing a preseason No. 1 ranking in The Sporting News, due to the stud backfield featuring Cadillac Williams, Ronnie Brown and Brandon Jacobs. But as is so often the case when Auburn gets preseason buzz...the games started.

The Other Tigers started 0-2 on the season with losses to USC and Georgia Tech, and dropped three more before ending the season triumphant over a bad Alabama team in the Iron Bowl. Tommy Tubberville had been the toast of the town, but disappointing season had truly angered Auburn superbooster Bobby Lowder. I’ll let College and Mag narrate the rest:

A day or two after the game, it was revealed that Auburn’s president, William Walker; Athletic Director David Housel; and Bobby Lowder had flown to Louisville to meet with Bobby Petrino the Thursday before the Iron Bowl to interview him for the Auburn job. The secret meeting tampered with contracts held by both Tuberville and Petrino. Walker and Housel (who, despite this momentary lapse in judgment remains the consummate Auburn man) lost their jobs over the scandal. The scandal was part of the reason Auburn was put on SACs probation, effectively ending the longstanding battle between Lowder and the Board of Directors on one side and the student body and faculty on the other. Petrino apologized to his AD and the Cardinal Nation and swore that he would stay in Louisville forever.

The event galvanized public support for Tommy Tuberville who went on to go undefeated in 2004 and stretch the winning streak over Alabama to six games. Even today, seven years after he resigned as Auburn’s head coach, he remains a beloved figure on the Plains.

Petrino had been Auburn’s offensive coordinator the previous year, and the progress they made on offense with him in control was a big part of that 2003 preseason hype. Word of the visit leaked on Auburn message boards and quickly made its way to the front pages — partially because the wives of the assistant coaches talked and things slowly made their way out. As C&M mention, nobody ever really got over it, and even when Tuberville led Auburn to an undefeated season and SEC title in 2004, there was always this sense that he was on borrowed time. The story lives on so much that it’s one of the only one-word entries on this list that almost any Southeastern Conference fan remembers.

As for’s almost like you can’t trust that guy.

3. Phil Fulmer’s Lawsuit

In the early 2000s, Alabama football was hit by the NCAA for a pay-for-play scandal (I know, crazy, right?) involving defensive line recruit Albert Means.

In the process of discovery of the case, a lot of sordid details came to the surface in this one, namely, the fact that Tennessee Volunteers head coach Phil Fulmer had reported the Tide to the NCAA cops.

This led to a group of Alabama boosters filing a lawsuit on behalf of Tide assistant Ronnie Cottrell, who was heavily penalized by the NCAA’s findings. The suit went far enough for Fulmer to skip SEC Media Days in 2004, and drawing a $10,000 fine from the conference, in order to avoid process servers.

The lawsuit was ultimately dismissed, but it lived on for a few more years in Bama boards. Tide fans never forgave Fulmer. The fact that he was nine for his last 10 against Bama in 2004 probably didn’t help.

4. Mike Price’s Destiny

Speaking of the Albert Means case, the penalties that came as a result led then-Alabama head coach Dennis Franchione to run screaming into the waiting arms of Texas A&M following the 2002 season. After a search that didn’t seem to draw much interest, the Tide landed Washington State’s Mike Price. It seemed like an odd fit, but Price had led the Cougars to two Rose Bowls, a gargantuan task in the late 90s/early 2000s, and easily had the best record of any coach Bama could attract.

He barely made it out of his first spring practice. Late in spring of 2003, Auburn message boards (man, they come up a lot in this thing) began to make vague accusations of some sort of impropriety. Something about Price making a big mistake while in Pensacola, Fla., for an alumni golf tournament.

And then it all broke. Price took his University of Alabama credit card out for a night on the town, including both a visit to a Pensacola gentlemen’s club, and then another visit back to the hotel with some ladies he uh...met there. One of them named, appropriately, Destiny.

“We started screaming ‘Roll Tide!’ and he was yelling back, ‘It’s rolling, baby, it’s rolling.’”

Price was fired well before ever coaching a game at Alabama.

5. Tyrann Mathieu Suspended

It started as a whisper about “really bad news” coming one morning during LSU’s August practices before the 2012 season. By the time somebody was willing to say “no Honey Badger this year,” most LSU fans were just hoping it wasn’t true.

Tyrann Mathieu had become a superstar during LSU’s 2011 SEC title season, creating havoc as a ball-hawking nickelback and turning the tide of several big games as a punt returner. He even managed to get a trip to New York as a Heisman Trophy finalist.

Sadly, he never played another game for the Tigers. He was suspended for the 2012 season over multiple drug tests, and would ultimately withdraw from school to head to the NFL.

6. Dennis Franchione’s Private Newsletter

Fran was considered a slam-dunk hire when he jumped from Bama to Texas A&M after a 10-win season in 2002. But he never really seemed to get out of first gear at A&M. Every time the Aggies seemed to take a step forward, there was a big step back.

Five years in, message board rumors of impropriety led to another real-life scandal, as university leadership forced Franchione to discontinue a private newsletter he was exchanging with a select group of boosters. Sound like a scam? Well...

About a dozen elite boosters subscribed for the past three years to the e-mail newsletter, called “VIP Connection.” It offered Franchione’s candid assessments of players and specific injury information, details Franchione routinely declined to discuss publicly because, he would say, it is not “our policy” to disclose injuries.

Franchione made subscribers sign a confidentiality agreement and said he doesn’t believe any of the inside information was used for gambling, the San Antonio Express-News reported Friday after obtaining a copy of the newsletter through a “third-party source.”

Franchione was fired after that season.

7. The Chronicles of Houston Nutt

My old-school EDSBS readers remember Las Cronicas Locas de Boss Hawg, which reveled in the insanity of Arkansas head coach Houston Nutt and a group of players from high school powerhouse Springdale, and their head coach, Gus Malzahn.

Nutt hired Malzahn straight out of the high school ranks to land stud quarterback Mitch Mustain among others, but just one year in Malzahn was off to Tulsa and Mustain was transferring out to USC. Amid reports of parents meeting with Arkansas’ AD to protest Nutt overruling Malzahn, the legendary Arkansas message board Hogville went into overdrive.

By the time Nutt was run out of Fayetteville, a nasty email from a family friend to Mustain, and a series of questionable text messages between Nutt and a local news anchor were acquired by Hogville posters via Freedom of Information Act requests.

8. Mississippi Burnin’

Ah, the tried and true tradition of Ole Miss and Mississippi State shooting each other in the foot.

When Ole Miss began having some unprecedented recruiting success under Hugh Freeze, a moment of hubris — a tweet daring anyone with knowledge of impropriety to contact Ole Miss compliance — touched off a massive flame war between the two fan bases.

By the end, Ole Miss was under investigation and Freeze was fired because a State board manager found phone calls in Freeze’s phone records linked to prostitution. Records which were seized by Houston Nutt’s lawyers in a suit due to Freeze and others blaming the NCAA difficulties on the former coach,

Mississippi State linebacker Leo Lewis became NCAA evidence regarding improper benefits from members of the Ole Miss staff, which has then led to a lawsuit from an Oxford apparel store linked to said benefits, that is ongoing.

The whole sordid affair was documented by SB Nation’s Steven Godfrey both in print and video.


Which rumor was crazier?

This poll is closed

  • 78%
    1. Bobby Petrino’s Wreck
    (71 votes)
  • 21%
    8. Mississippi Burnin’
    (20 votes)
91 votes total Vote Now


Which rumor was crazier?

This poll is closed

  • 45%
    2. Jetgate
    (37 votes)
  • 54%
    7. Las Cronicas Locas de Boss Hawg
    (44 votes)
81 votes total Vote Now


Which rumor was crazier?

This poll is closed

  • 60%
    3. Phil Fulmer’s Lawsuit
    (48 votes)
  • 39%
    6. Dennis Franchione’s Newsletter
    (31 votes)
79 votes total Vote Now


Which rumor was crazier?

This poll is closed

  • 87%
    4. Mike Price’s Destiny
    (70 votes)
  • 12%
    5. Tyrann Mathieu Suspended
    (10 votes)
80 votes total Vote Now