The enthusiasm hasn’t maybe been there for this bit all way way through, and real life, plus the NFL Draft, has kept me from following through with it as I would’ve liked. But the time has finally come to put a wrap on our bracket for the greatest message board rumors in history. The final match-up.
But first, let’s look at how we got here:
Through all of the trials (there were literal trials) and tribulations, we have finally arrived to our final two. Both top seeds in their regions, and the easy chalk picks for this, in my opinion:
Bobby Petrino’s Motorcycle Wreck vs. As the Plains Burn
As the Petrino story won our “Stranger Than Fiction” category, the best way to illustrate its general craziness is to just present a summary of the facts, from start to finish:
- Sometime during his four-year tenure as head coach of the University of Arkansas, Bobby Petrino began an affair with Jessica Dorrell, a former Razorbacks volleyball player.
- Petrino eventually helped Dorrell gain a job as his personal assistant, within the program.*
- On April 1, 2012, Petrino wrecked his motorcycle outside of Fayetteville.
- Dorrell, only identified as a friend at the time, was a passenger on said motorcycle.
- Petrino holds a press conference displaying his injuries, including a neck brace.
- He does so wearing his 2011 Sugar Bowl hat.
- When asked by then-Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long about the nature of his relationship, Petrino reiterates that Dorrell (who was also engaged at the time) was just a friend.
- Upon questioning from the Arkansas highway patrol, Petrino admits to the affair.
- As the rumors fly, Petrino is forced to detail specifics about the relationship to Long.
- On April 11, Long fires Petrino, citing the pattern of lying.
Petrino was fabulously successful at Arkansas, although the subsequent cratering of the program, and the fact that a similar success/cratering followed him to his most recent tenure at Louisville indicates that the success was likely fleeting. His firing will always remain a shock, although it was clearly the right thing to do.
*Note: hiring a person you are sleeping with to any job funded by tax dollars is a Federal crime under Equal Opportunity Employment laws.
Of course, there remains the rumor that there never was any wreck in the first place — that Dorrell’s fiance (they eventually still got married, by the way) and some friends tracked Petrino down and roughed him up. Personally, the road rash looks a little authentic to be man-made, but that might better explain why the cops would have questioned Petrino so...thoroughly.
Speaking of thorough, there is not now, and there likely never will be, as exhaustive of a message board rumor as As The Plains Burn. It translates to a 33-page PDF.
The short version involves Auburn boosters stealing Federal TARP dollars from the late Aughts bank bailouts and funneling the money to buy recruits. Most notably, 2010 Heisman Trophy Winner Cam Newton. But That description doesn’t quite due the document proper justice.
With that in mind, friend of the site and Auburn fan Josh Black is here to help give us his summary:
Q: What did you think the first time you read “As the Plains Burn”?
A: A lot of the background information of it is more or less true. The pay for play stuff from Dye through Bowden, and those involved has been pretty much accepted as fact at Auburn for a long time. The whole Lowder meddling portion is also true. They get a lot more right than they do wrong in setting the table, so naturally as an Auburn person I had some concern, but mainly I was pissed. Not at Auburn for potentially doing anything wrong, but for how what I was reading on a message board seemed to be taken with a lot of truth in the national press. That was exhausting, and is something I don’t think we’ll see again.
But again, they did a good job of setting the table. Their cast of characters are all so intertwined with Auburn that it makes for a really compelling read from an Auburn person’s perspective. A lot of “Yeah, I could see that being true knowing person X and person Y and how much they hate person Z.”
My take on it the first time I read it isn’t that different than it is now. There’s a lot of speculation around Auburn and rumors that never got any real legs, while there were documented meetings with Mississippi State.
Q: None of us are naive as to how recruiting works. Do you believe the narrative has...any plausibility?
A: In regards to what is mentioned about pay for play happening 25 years ago, yeah it’s absolutely true. And it’s an easy narrative to build when your foundation is set on something that most all parties between 1991 - 1995 would admit to some knowledge of now.
In terms of Cam Newton specifically, I don’t think there’s a shred of truth to how they presented this all going down. Not because I necessarily believe Cam was clean. I wish I could believe that, but c’mon, that’s more far fetched than some of the things folks are accused of in this thing. I don’t believe Bobby Lowder, who was in the midst of one of the largest financial institutions shutting its doors during the crisis, Milton McGregor, who was facing criminal charges over influencing politicians to legalize electronic bingo, and Jimmy Rane, who is a certified billionaire with a massive company dealing with government contracts, were in a position at that time to execute any of this. Lotta eyes on them, and while they love(d) (RIP Milton) Auburn, none of them could’ve executed such an elaborate plan in 2009. Not in this state. Not with who’s on the other side of it. Not then, and not even right now.
Personally, I believe State got sloppy with the recruitment of Cam Newton and it backfired when Cecil Newton, who is 100% guilty of soliciting his son, got cold feet on the matter. Additionally, Auburn had 5 starting offensive linemen returning, and two receivers in Terrell Zachery and Darvin Adams who were set to flourish in Gus’ second year of running the offense. There was a lot for Cam to like about Auburn without any money. Did he get paid to go to Auburn? Probably. Most top athletes get paid, and they deserve ever penny. But did he come to Auburn because they outbid State? I don’t think so. I think State simply was sloppy. Wouldn’t be the last time we’ve seen that in Mississippi.
Q: Do you believe it has earned its place among the great recruiting rumors/conspiracies?
A: I think it certainly warrants top billing. The reason why is everyone pushing this stuff did a damn fine job of pissing off every Auburn person in the known universe. I saw Mark Schlabach outside of Jordan-Hare Stadium before the Georgia game and I legitimately thought he was going to get beaten up. We were in the midst of the greatest season in Auburn history, right after Alabama had gotten back the year before, and other fans, mainly Alabama fans, did everything they could to steal even an ounce of joy from us for it.
Which is why it’s so great! EVERYONE outside of Auburn people were laughing about how our title would be vacated, and the NCAA did something it NEVER does and EXONERATED us! So “As the Plains Burn” is one of the finest pieces of literature in the 21st century, because it gave hope to anyone (again, mainly Tide fans) wanting to see Auburn get drilled. It fueled a PA operator in Bryant-Denny Stadium to play “Take the Money and Run”. So in turn it allowed the Auburn people to give everyone the double-birded “Stone Cold” salute and tell everybody to go to hell. It also discredited Mark Schlabach, Sports by Brooks, Thayer Evans, Pete Thamel, and anyone else who used “sources” in rumormongering stories being published by legitimate media outlets. “As the Plains Burn” tried damn hard to nail Auburn, and all it accomplished was making literally everyone pissed off. That’s impressive as hell.
Additionally, I’m forever grateful that “As the Plains Burn” existed so none of y’all down in Louisiana could get anybody to focus on how we got Trovon Reed and Greg Robinson.
All I know is whatever Newton cost, he was well worth it.
So what say you?
Which message board rumor was crazier?
This poll is closed
Bobby Petrino’s Motorcycle Wreck
As The Plains Burn