(UPDATED: 6:15 p.m.)
According to Western Kentucky’s mission statement — which I suddenly found reason to Google — the university “prepares students to be productive, engaged, and socially responsible citizen leaders of a global society.”
So we’re left to wonder: Will Western Kentucky ask Bobby Petrino be teach a course in social responsibility, or will he be too busy being productively engaged with an athletic department underling?
Petrino is back in coaching. That was inevitable. On one hand, the man has so much personal and professional baggage that he needs a storage unit. But because he can coach college football, it figured to be a short time before one school’s administration declared, “To hell with morals and scruples! This is college football!”
Western Kentucky stepped up to the soul-selling window. This came after even three schools in the SEC — the conference that invented soul-selling — passed on him. Western Kentucky went where Auburn, Tennessee and Kentucky wouldn’t.
Somewhere in Bowling Green, WKU president Gary A. Ransdell and athletic director Todd Stewart are refining and rehearsing their, “Everybody deserves a second chance” soundbites in a mirror.
It is one thing for a professional sports team to compromise their principles for the sake of victories, ticket sales and increased revenue streams. But is there any semblance of a value system left in college athletics? Shouldn’t there be some weight given to the concept of molding and leading young man on a college campus, or did that go out with the last Knute Rockne speech?
Think of how Petrino’s last two coaching jobs with the Falcons and Arkansas ended. In grease fires. How can Western Kentucky or any university justify hiring somebody who has proven at every level to be so morally bankrupt?
Stewart must have been struggling for material, because he actually said at Monday’s news conference: “What it comes down to is he made a big mistake. But this is the the United States of America, and we’re a country of second chances.” (Uh, second?)
I’m thinking of “Otter” from the scene in Animal House when the Delta House fraternity has to appear before Faber College administrators: “We’re not going to sit here and listen to you badmouth the United States of America!”
Petrino, of course, hasn’t made one mistake. He has made several lifetimes’ worth. He is deeply flawed and, frankly, a bad person.
Forget cheating on his wife. That’s between him, his wife and his God. The fact he hired his mistress (a former Arkansas volleyball player) at Arkansas, gave her $20,000 and put her on the university payroll exposed a public university to potential sexual harassment lawsuits.
He was considered so “hot” (in a bad way) that no major program would hire him. So he took a job in the Sun Belt. Welcome to humility.
In committing his egregious violation of employment law (and common sense), he also lied to his superiors about circumstances surrounding the motorcycle accident that led to his firing, admitting to his “inappropriate relationship” with Jessica Dorrell only after she was referenced in the police report (two days later).
He quit on the Falcons in the middle of the season, as cowardly an act as a coach can commit. He didn’t tell players. He left a note in their locker. The day after telling owner Arthur Blank he was committed to the team — prompting Blank to give two national TV interviews on the topic and look foolish — Petrino was in Fayetteville at a midnight news conference doing Pig Sooey chants.
While at Louisville, Petrino secretly met with Auburn representatives in late 2003, even with the season still going and Auburn having a coach (Tommy Tuberville — who, by the way, gave Petrino a job in 2002. There’s your loyalty.). He also interviewed with LSU in 2004 just five days after signing a contract extension, and bolted for the Falcons five months after signing a new 10-year deal
Petrino said he has spent the last eight months trying to repair the damage he’s done to his marriage and family. He also said, “One thing I’ve learned from this is I can be even more of an influence on a young man’s life than just on the football field.”
And that’s the problem.
By Jeff Schultz