The Bobby Petrino Scandal
Should he be fired?
The morality of the situation aside, unless there’s some other aspect to the story that’s about to blow up,
really, what did Bobby Petrino actually do
that's worth potentially getting fired?
To be totally honest, after all the horrors of last year, as long as a college football controversy doesn’t involve the alleged raping of children, I’m good. But beyond that, as long as the University of Arkansas and athletic director Jeff Long conduct a thorough investigation and aren’t kowtowing to the meatball element that only cares about a winning football team, this should be a matter between Petrino, his family, Jessica Dorrell, and her friends and family.
Compared to recent college sports scandals, what Petrino did is a Petrino problem. While he represents the University of Arkansas, most of the parts of the story don’t and shouldn’t affect the school and are of a more personal nature than on a football coach level.
- The police aren’t charging him with any sort of a crime and he’s not in any legal trouble. That matters.
As the Penn State scandal has taught us all too painfully, anything that comes from the local law enforcers in college towns have to be taken with ten grains of salt, however, according to the report and the State spokesman, Petrino was cooperative and won’t be cited for any wrongdoing. No one died, and Petrino seems to be the only one to suffer any major injuries.
- He crashed his motorcycle while riding with Dorrell, a woman who’s not his wife. A coach shouldn’t get fired for that.
I don’t agree with what he did, and I’ll quickly change my tune if and when more things start to unravel – and more facts always seem to come out in cases like this – but I have a really, really hard time being too hard anyone with a family for not wanting to tell the world about a “pleasure jaunt.”
Morality aside, this might make him a bad guy, but it doesn’t mean that what
happened “adversely affects the reputation of the (university's) athletics programs.”
Arkansas shouldn’t be embarrassed; Petrino should, and that’s the big difference.
- Dorrell is a paid employee by the university and was hired by Petrino. This is the one part of the story that has the potential to lead to Petrino's downfall. Though we don't know the exact nature of the head football coach's relationship with this subordinate, it certainly could leave the university vulnerable to a lawsuit.
“My concern was to protect my family and a previous inappropriate relationship from becoming public,” Petrino said, without explaining the "previous inappropriate relationship."
“In hindsight, I showed a serious mistake in judgment when I chose not to be more specific about those details. . . . I’ve acknowledged this previous inappropriate relationship with my family and those within the athletic department administration.”
That being said, coaches hiring friends, relatives and, ahem, acquaintances, as paid employees of a school is part of the deal, and it happens everywhere. Whether it’s hiring a brother as a defensive coordinator, or bringing in an assistant who has a pipeline to a fertile recruiting area, or bringing over a secretary from a past job, coaches give gigs to people they know for a variety of reasons.
Even so, this is going to be a major sticking point for Petrino and it’ll end up being the part of the story that has the most legs.
- Dorrell is reportedly engaged to an Arkansas swimming and diving coach. That doesn’t matter. It might be a sad and unfortunate aspect to the story, but her relationships are immaterial to Petrino’s job status.
Petrino lied to Long about Dorrell, or anyone, being on the bike. The
administration will cool off and will eventually
get over this. Long had to show that the
university is running the football program, and
not vice versa like it seemed during the Ohio
State scandal last summer. So far he’s doing just that.
Long acted swiftly and decisively to put Petrino on a paid administrative leave, but that’s just a cover-the-bases move in the heat of the moment. Long is rightfully acknowledging that this is bad, and he’s taking the first step in case he has to make a bigger move upon further investigation. He’s buying himself time, and in the post-Penn State world, athletic administrators are going to do everything by the book, as they should.
Not telling Long about Dorrell right away wasn’t exactly bright, and after Penn State and Ohio State there can’t be any more secrets hidden from the higher-ups, but Petrino isn’t in trouble – for the moment - because of anything other than having a woman who wasn’t his wife on his bike.
So Petrino didn’t tell Long everything and he
wasn’t exactly truthful to the media. Welcome to
the world of football coaches and college
Part of the job of a head coach at a major college football or basketball program is to keep the skeletons all tucked away. Some have to do more to keep the plates spinning than others, but not telling superiors everything is par for the course.
No, the ADs don't want to know how the sausage
is made. Once they do, they have to act and then
they look like the bad guy.
Petrino is the head man of an SEC football team that’s good enough to be in the hunt for the national title – you don’t get to that level without knowing how to sidestep a few hundred landmines – but outside of poor judgment and making the boss mad,
has he embarrassed the university enough to get
- There’s a clause in Petrino’s contract that says he can be canned for ''engaging in conduct, as solely determined by the university, which is clearly contrary to the character and responsibilities of a person occupying the position of head football coach or which negatively or adversely affects the reputation of the (university's) athletics programs in any way.''
Above all else, this is the only part that truly matters.
Beyond your own sense of right and wrong, if you want to argue that Petrino should be fired because these actions shouldn’t be acceptable at an institution of higher learning, you’re probably in the right.
Top football and basketball coaches are the main representatives of their schools, and for good and bad, they are who the outside world sees. No one knows who the top history professor at the University of Arkansas, but sports fans know Petrino. Over this weekend, your mom will, too, and it’s just that sort of negative publicity that’s
the issue for Petrino’s job status.
With the facts as presented at the moment, and with the football season still five months away, the best guess is that Petrino gets suspended and loses a significant chunk of his salary for this season. He might be suspended for two games - you could coach this Hog team to wins over Jacksonville State and UL Monroe – but there’s no way, now how, no chance that he isn’t on the sidelines when Alabama comes to town on September 15th.
However, that’ll be it. There won’t be any second chances from here on, and for a coach with an interesting past, it’ll be a part of his legacy for a long, long time.
If he leads Arkansas to another huge season,
this will all be forgotten very, very quickly.