Razorbacks Getting Their Due With Petrino

At first glance, Arkansas head football coach Bobby Petrino's April 1 motorcycle crash looked to be no more than an unfortunate accident. Petrino suffered broken ribs, facial injuries, and cracked vertebrae, which requires him to wear a neck brace.

However, facts that have come to light over the past several days have turned a seemingly simple story into a full-blown soap opera. Unfortunately for Petrino, his family, and the Razorbacks, the characters and plot are real.

When Petrino initially informed school officials of the accident, he claimed to be alone when he lost control of his motorcycle and crashed. The university subsequently released a statement supporting their coach's story. An Arkansas State Police report released several days later painted a much different picture. According to the report, Petrino was riding with Jessica Dorrell, a 25-year-old former Razorback volleyball player whom Petrino had recently hired as the football team's student athlete development coordinator.

Shortly after the police report became public, Petrino issued a statement apologizing for not being completely forthcoming about the details of the accident, and admitted he had an "inappropriate relationship" with Dorrell. His concern, he said, was to protect his family and keep the inappropriate relationship, along with Dorrell's name, from becoming public.

In his statement, Petrino apologized to his family, Razorback Athletic Director Jeff Long, the school's Board of Trustees, administration, his coaching staff, student athletes, even the entire state of Arkansas. He pledged to fully cooperate with the school during its investigation of the incident, and hopes he can repair the damage he has done to his family and return as Arkansas's head coach.

The Razorbacks must have known about Petrino's character flaws when they hired him away from the Atlanta Falcons in 2007. His time as Falcons head coach was closer to a cup of coffee than a prolonged visit, lasting just 13 games. The Falcons were a miserable 3-10 during that stretch before Petrino threw in the towel to take the Arkansas job.

Granted, Petrino lost his starting quarterback, Michael Vick, before the season began, when he was suspended for his role in a dogfighting ring. The team also suffered numerous injuries to key players. Petrino's biggest enemy, though, was himself. Players and front office personnel criticized him publicly and privately for his autocratic style of coaching and aloof personality. When it became apparent he was headed to Fayettville, Petrino didn't even bother to address his team and give them the news in person. He chose instead to post a 78-word letter in the locker room informing them of his departure.

Before his stint with the Falcons, Petrino was head coach at the University of Louisville, where he compiled a 41-9 record and an Orange Bowl win in four seasons. But that success was tainted by controversy. Petrino had discipline problems with some of his players, and at one point went behind the back of athletic director Tom Jurich to meet with a headhunting party from Auburn.

All this matters little to Jeff Long. The Razorback AD is now faced with his own Petrino scandal. The fact Petrino cheated on his wife with a former Razorback athlete and current employee is bad enough. A greater concern for Long is that his head football coach lied to him about the accident, not to mention the embarrassment the university must now endure.

If Petrino had an average or losing record, firing him would be a no-brainer. Long's decision will be more difficult based on Petrino's 21-5 record and two bowl appearances the past two seasons. The team is poised to contend for its first national championship since 1964, when Jerry Jones was its co-captain.

Tempting as that is to consider, Long has to think of the big picture. Petrino's actions have seriously damaged his credibility, not only to his boss and the university, but his current players and even future recruits. The SEC is one of the most competitive conferences in college sports, and you can bet rival coaches will be quick to point out the scandal to every recruit thinking of coming to Arkansas. Long's decision may not only determine Petrino's future, but his own. Time will tell.

Comments and Conversation

April 26, 2012

The Saturday Edge:

What Petrino lacked in character he sure made up for on the sidelines. Hogs will feel effects on the field.

Leave a Comment

Featured Site