UPDATED: Arkansas had no choice but to fire Petrino

This would have been the face of Arkansas football if Bobby Petrino wasn't fired. (AP photos)

This would have been the face of Arkansas football if Bobby Petrino wasn't fired. (AP photos)

(Update at 10 p.m. This column is a rewrite of the previous version to reflect Bobby Petrino’s firing.)

(Update II at 10:45 p.m. I’ve added Petrino’s statement on his firing below the column. My standard reaction: I judge people by actions, not words.)

Once you get past the emotional side that says Bobby Petrino just got run over by the karma train, once you get past the misguided Arkansas fans who started a Facebook page in support of their morally bankrupt coach and carried signs such as, “What’s wrong with scoring in the offseason?” this much is clear: Arkansas had no choice.

Bobby Petrino went 21-5 in the last two seasons as a football coach in the SEC. He’s out of a job. What does that tell you?

This is a sport where college presidents and athletic directors have been known to give only lip service to matters of academic reform and ethics — and whatever flawed mindset exists in other conferences, it’s safe to multiply that by 10 in the SEC. What Petrino did, however, exposed a public university to too much litigation and potential financial damages.

Jeff Long said Petrino gave Jessica Dorrell $20,000.

Jeff Long: Petrino gave Jessica Dorrell $20,000.

Petrino apparently gave Jessica Dorrell $20,000. Athletic director Jeff Long couldn’t say for certain what that payment was for, but it’s safe to assume that Arkansas generally doesn’t give the “student-athlete development coordinator” a $20,000 signing bonus.

The unimaginable pain Petrino has inflicted on his family – having an “inappropriate relationship” with a 25-year-old former Arkansas volleyball player – is for him, his wife, his children and their God to sort out. But the fact that Petrino’s relationship was with an athletic-department employee – a women whom he had hired only a week earlier – set up the university for a possible sexual harassment suit.

This wasn’t just about a head coach and his philandering. It’s not just about Petrino scrambling to cover up the circumstances of his motorcycle accident, most notably that he had a female passenger who was half his age on the back seat. If character was a priority, Arkansas

Fans played the "forgiveness" card at a Monday rally.

Fans tried to play the "forgiveness" card at a Monday rally.

never would have hired Petrino to begin with. Everybody knew his resume. In fact, Long would be out of a job himself. He interviewed Petrino without the Falcons’ permission four years ago while the coach was under contract to Atlanta and the team was still in the middle of a season.

This wasn’t up to Long anymore than it was up to the blithering protesting fans who were screaming, “Woo Pig Sooie!” at

Sometimes fans can lose all sense of rational thought.

Sometimes fans can lose all sense of rational thought.

rally for Petrino Monday. It was up to his bosses, the smart people, who realized this could cost the university millions.

Long, probably reading from a script written by Arkansas attorneys, said Petrino “made the decision to mislead the public,” which “adversely affected the university and the football program.” He referenced “manipulative behavior.” He said Petrino was fired “with cause.”

All of this is Latin for: “There’s a morals clause in your contract and you won’t see a nickel of that $21 million.”

So many Arkansas fans don’t get it, and don’t want to get it. Matt Couch, the Arkansas fan who organized Monday’s protest, played to his audience: “None of us are condoning what he did, but we know it’s Easter weekend, a time for forgiveness. And most importantly, we all want to win some football games, don’t we?”

And there it is. Never mind the broken family. Never mind that Dorrell herself was engaged to another coach in the athletic department. What’s really important is that Petrino went 11-2 and not 7-6 last season. Also, there’s next year’s Alabama game.

Sports and fandom can blind good and normal people. They lose all sense of rational thought and perspective. We see it when an athlete is embraced as a hero, a need, regardless of his disregard for laws, ethics or moral decency, simply because of his statistics and the team’s place in the standings.

We saw it this past year on the campus of Penn State, when fans protested in support of Joe Paterno, with no thought or regard for the children who are the subject of horrible sex-abuse allegations.

We see it now.

“I’m not surprised by much anymore,” said Richard Lapchick, the director of the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport at the University of Central Florida. “Our culture, particularly our sports culture, is so directed at winning that on campuses too many people overlook what appear to be egregious acts by coaches and athletes. Upon reflection, they might change their opinion. I think we saw that at Penn State when students protested right away, but after a while there was a more balanced assessment.”

Arkansas couldn’t afford to wait for fan logic to take over. They did the right thing.

By Jeff Schultz

Petrino’s statement

“I was informed in writing today at 5:45 p.m. that I was being terminated as head football coach at the University of Arkansas.

The simplest response I have is: I’m sorry. These two words seem very inadequate. But that is my heart. All I have been able to think about is the number of people I’ve let down by making selfish decisions. I’ve taken a lot of criticism in the past. Some deserved, some not deserved. This time, I have no one to blame by myself.

I chose to engage in an improper relationship. I also made several poor decisions following the end of that relationship and in the aftermath of the accident. I accept full responsibility for what has happened.

I’m sure you heard (athletic director) Jeff Long’s reasons for termination. There was a lot of information shared. Given the decision that has been made, this is not the place to debate Jeff’s view of what happened. In the end, I put him in the position of having to sort through my mistakes and that is my fault.

I have hurt my wife Becky and our four children. I’ve let down the University of Arkansas, my team, coaching staff and everyone associated with the Razorback football program. As a result of my personal mistakes, we will not get to finish our goal of building a championship program. I wish that I had been given the opportunity to meet with the players and staff prior to this evening’s press conference and hope that I will be given the opportunity to give my apologies and say my goodbyes in person. We have left the program in better shape than we found it and I want the Razorback Nation to know that is my hope that the program achieves the success it deserves.

My sole focus at this point is trying to repair the damage I’ve done to my family. They did not ask for any of this and deserve better. I am committed to being a better husband, father and human being as a result of this and will work each and every day to prove that to my family, friends and others.

I love football. I love coaching. I of course hope I can find my way back to the profession I love. In the meantime, I will do everything I can to heal the wounds I have created.

I want to thank Chancellor Gearhart, Jeff Long, the Board of Trustees, the university administration, faculty, staff, students, alumni and fans for the opportunity to serve as the head football coach at the University of Arkansas for the past four years. I was not given an opportunity to continue in that position. I wish that had been the case, but that was not my decision. I wish nothing but the best for the Razorback football program, the University and the entire Razorback Nation.”

478 comments Add your comment

David

April 10th, 2012
10:08 pm

David E.

April 10th, 2012
10:09 pm

Tonight, Jeff Long, the athletics director for Arkansas said”Petrino engaged in a pattern of misleading and manipulative behavior designed to deceive me …” Funny, Arthur Blank could have said the exact same words in December 2007.

fuzzybee

April 10th, 2012
10:10 pm

I knock the SEC because almost the entire conference is obsessed with athletics to the point where they have lost all perspective on the nature of a university. Seriously, if your university president’s number one priority is to hire a winning football coach then something is wrong. Ditto for Big 10 schools like Ohio State and Penn State.

Spare me

April 10th, 2012
10:11 pm

Probably hired next by another SEC school

awbuzz

April 10th, 2012
10:12 pm

kingdaddy

April 10th, 2012
10:13 pm

My SECe friends, could this be a continuation of an implosion in the West. Hmmmmmm???

jj

April 10th, 2012
10:14 pm

Couldn’t have happened to a bigger douche.

Mora less Petrino

April 10th, 2012
10:14 pm

Hey Bobby, I hear you wrecked your bike while transporting your favorite garden implement!
Shut up Jim! You’re a miserable loser. UCLA, another one and done for you…, loser.
Well Bobby, were you pulling out of The Home Depot parking lot when you wrecked?
Jim, you’re an idiot on so many levels. I don’t shop at Home Depot.
Bobby, I don’t shop there either. Not since Blank fired me and hired your DA.
Jim, you calling me a DA?
Bobby, remember the night you bailed on ATL and did all that “who pig sooey” jazz?
Jim, you’re a moron! It’s “woo pig sooie.”
Bobby, regardless of the specifics of the hillbilly chant, you’re still a DA.
Shut up Jim! Loser!
Who you callin’ a loser, loser?
You, loser!
Shut up Bobby!
Uh oh, got to run Jim! Here comes my wife and she’s wielding a garden implement!
Yeah, sure! Bye DA.

Beast from the East

April 10th, 2012
10:14 pm

Jeff,
Who does Arkansas hire now? Gus Malzahn?

awbuzz

April 10th, 2012
10:14 pm

guess not

Got what he earned… to bad he brought shame upon his family and employer in the process.

Alister

April 10th, 2012
10:14 pm

“Lapchick”? Really?

technut

April 10th, 2012
10:14 pm

Awesome! “Run over by the karma train!” It’s a real b*tch ain’t it?

Chris 89

April 10th, 2012
10:15 pm

Let this be a lesson for ya. DO NOT MESS WITH THE FALCONS.The angel of vengance is about this team. Its probably a good thing Tuna declined to coach the Saints cause they’d probably find a dead hooker under his bed the next day.

Hurst

April 10th, 2012
10:15 pm

I feel no sympathy for Petrino’s wife. She knew he cheated on everyone else, it was only a matter of time before she found out she was treated like all the other teams he lied to.

dbc

April 10th, 2012
10:16 pm

I think the girl is just as much a dishonest scumbag as Petrino. Binging an old man for a payday when you’re engaged? So much for wholesome country girls. I’m of the opinion that this girl is toxic — not only will she have to leave the state of Arkansas under cover of darkness, but who would ever hire her? (OK, that opens up a world of possibilities.) I’m sure Hugh Hefner will make a run at her.

Brewmaster

April 10th, 2012
10:16 pm

GT Bob = GT ManBoob

kingdaddy

April 10th, 2012
10:18 pm

I never liked him anyway. I’m sure some no-morals loser will hire him soon…

uga76

April 10th, 2012
10:19 pm

If you have ever been to Arkansas you are not the least bit surprised by those fans rallying for Petrino -how pathetic!

Patrick

April 10th, 2012
10:19 pm

Is it just me, or is the best part that they fired him BY LETTER? As a Falcons fan, this pleases me.

I HOPE NOT......

April 10th, 2012
10:19 pm

Plenty of time still for this to die down…and then KNOXVILLE comes calling

Mike

April 10th, 2012
10:20 pm

It’s a good year to be a Falcons fan.

Class Act

April 10th, 2012
10:21 pm

What a class act the AD at Arkansas is. He did the right thing, even though, you could tell it hurt him deeply. UGA should take notice.

Spare me

April 10th, 2012
10:22 pm

Let’s keep him in mind on Sept 1st when the first “Fire Richt” chants start.

Score Check

April 10th, 2012
10:22 pm

Fuzzy Bee I certainly see your point of view. Kudos for gt snatching up cpj.

LOL

Tift Devil

April 10th, 2012
10:23 pm

I say Arkansas goes after Kirby Smart.

pat

April 10th, 2012
10:23 pm

Great job, Schultz.

kingdaddy

April 10th, 2012
10:24 pm

Well I guess that Georgia/ Arkantucky SEC–CG is out of the picture….

Brewmaster

April 10th, 2012
10:25 pm

GT Bob is probably all for Obama’s ” Buffett Rule.” He is hoping there will be a govenment mandate to” re-distribute ” some success from UGA to Tech’s pathetic football program so they will have their ” fair share” of wins. What a pathetic TROLL !

Ms. Petrino

April 10th, 2012
10:25 pm

Oh, Bobby, honey, I need some $$$$$$$$, Can you fix me up? LOL

mark

April 10th, 2012
10:25 pm

Lets see here. She is a home wrecker, gets a 20,000 “gift” , humiliates her fiancee, totally unfair access to a good job and someone is worried her being a victim of “harassement”. Only in America.

uga76

April 10th, 2012
10:26 pm

@ Class Act – you are way off base – this same AD negotiated with Petrino while he was still employed by the Falcons without permission from the Falcons owner. He is just hurt and emotional because he realizes his butt is probably next. What exactly should UGA take notice of?

kingdaddy

April 10th, 2012
10:28 pm

OMG , Petrino to G.T………. Yahooooo…

GT81Lawyer

April 10th, 2012
10:28 pm

If the AD was such a “class guy”, this wouldn’t have hurt his soul so much. Petrino is a scum bucket and his work history is pathetic. As to the lapchick, she’s a looker, but I guess that in her case means shes a “H”ooker.

uga76

April 10th, 2012
10:28 pm

and where was the AD when Petrino was hiring his girlfriend?

TC

April 10th, 2012
10:29 pm

I have always hated that guy.

Brewmaster

April 10th, 2012
10:29 pm

GT Bob. For all or our benefit, please list all of Tech’s great accomplishments since 1991, including record vs UGA. No clever retorts. Just the facts>

Coach Bobby Petrino

April 10th, 2012
10:31 pm

The University gave me a new Harley-Davidson Motorcycle as part of my severance package.

Any of you ladies want to Ride My Hog?

Freddie the falcon

April 10th, 2012
10:32 pm

That AD is a scum bag too… Talking to that loser without the Falcons permission. Like a thief in the night he left the falcons high and dry!

GTBob

April 10th, 2012
10:32 pm

Kudos to Arkansas. I didn’t think they had it in them. They will more then likely fall back to being a mediocre team now but at least they kept their dignity and got rid of him. Good for UGA also. They just moved up to 4th best team in the SEC.

Paul in NH

April 10th, 2012
10:32 pm

I can’t think of a single business in the US that would not have fired Petrino for his behavior. Mark Hurd was fired as CEO by H-P for something less. The AD needs to go too.

Coach Bobby Petrino

April 10th, 2012
10:33 pm

It really didn’t matter whether Arkansas fired me or not, the Razorbacks are NEVER going to beat out Alabama to win the SEC or National Titles as long as Nick Saban is there.

Haggardlab

April 10th, 2012
10:35 pm

A an Arkansan I am embarrassed by the morons at the very small rally for Petrino with such idiotic signs. Take a look at them. This is why people make fun of Arkansas.

bigeasy830

April 10th, 2012
10:36 pm

The whole situation reminds me of the situation when, a married man meets a married woman and then they become involved and leave their families for each other. Then soon after they get together one or both starts to cheat on each other because lets face it a relationship that starts under those pretenses will probably end the same way. You see that is what just happened to Arkansas. Arkansas knew that Petrino was involved with someone else, The Falcons, but did not respect that relationship and broke up that happy home. They knew Petrino was slimy but thought he really loved them and would change. They believed his lies that the team he was involved with, The Falcons, the problems they were going through, well it was all the Falcons fault not his. Arkansas and Petrino got exactly what they deserved. Petrino did not screw over Arkansas, Arkansas screwed over themselves when they hired him. Now Arkansas wants to take the moral high ground, where was that moral high ground when they hired a coach behind his employers back. What about the lies and deceit Arkansas told 4 years ago. Karma is a B&*ch.

Jim Mora Jr.

April 10th, 2012
10:36 pm

If UCLA doesn’t work out, I’d love to give Arkansas a try.

Coach Bobby Petrino

April 10th, 2012
10:38 pm

I am going to co-author a book with my old boss Arthur Blank.

We’re going to call it:

HOW UGLY, OLD GUYS CAN SCORE WITH HOT, YOUNG WOMEN WITHOUT USING OUR MONEY

Brewmaster

April 10th, 2012
10:39 pm

Fact is, mark Richt OWNS you, while maintianing great character and principle. It is much easier to attack our relevant program than to look in the mirror and see a high school offense with fullbacks as quarterbacks.

Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

April 10th, 2012
10:39 pm

I still want my Bobby Petrino Motorcycle Club shirt!!!

kingdaddy

April 10th, 2012
10:40 pm

G.T.Bob
As long as Tech is around UGA will never be the worst team in this state. If you didn’t just love pain, you’d come on over to the dark side Luke-Bob…

Coach Bobby Petrino

April 10th, 2012
10:40 pm

I hear the New Orleans Saints need a coach for next year.

I better stock on some Mardi Gras beads for the ladies.

I love ta-tas.

Arkan-face-saws

April 10th, 2012
10:41 pm

Anyone notice his sugarbowl hat? you think it was stunt to make people remember where he has taken them….Karma party of 1! Maybe the falcons will hire him back as their janitor for the nosebleed section. But he will probably end up at Tennessee in 2013…sorry derek!