Arkansas Needs To Set a Precedent

April 7, 2012


At a 9:45 p.m. press conference, Thursday, the University of Arkansas administration put Head Coach Bobby Petrino on leave from the football program. It all stemmed from Petrino admitting that he lied to Fayetteville police about having an additional passenger on his motorcycle, during an April 1st accident. The other passenger turned out to be Jessica Dorrell, 25, a recently hired staffer in the football office. Petrino also admitted that he had been engaging in an affair with Dorrell. All of these factors contributed to the Arkansas administration’s decision.

The debate over Petrino’s future job status, both among the media and fans, has been split. The prevailing opinion seems to be that Petrino should be fired – but I believe he won’t. I believe that the Razorback administration should set a precedent, by firing the fourth-year Head Coach.

I know that some people will be curious as to how I came to adopt this position. The reason that I feel Petrino should be terminated is to establish that football coaches are no longer above the law. I’m a football purist who believes that what goes on in the locker-room stays in the locker-room, but some of the things these coaches are getting away with go beyond that scope.

A prime example is the Penn State child sex abuse scandal that rocked college football to its core. Joe Paterno is one of the greatest football coaches of all-time, but he sacrificed his integrity in pursuit of the all-time wins record, for which he competed with Bobby Bowden. More recently, Gregg Williams spearheaded a bounty program that has no place in the game of football. The Paterno and Williams scandals are just two examples of coaches taking it way too far, all in the name of trying to win games.

Coaches have been fired for questionable behavior or just plain lying. Jim Tressel was forced to resign, last year, because he lied to NCAA investigators about his knowledge of infractions committed by Ohio State players. Mike Price and George O’Leary were both fired, before even coaching a game for their respective schools – Alabama and Notre Dame. Price got fired for letting a female acquaintance make charges on his Alabama credit card account, while O’Leary got fired for lying on his resume.

I believe that the Arkansas administration may find it difficult to fire Petrino, in light of the fact that he has established Arkansas as a potential national power, and, unlike Tressel, he hasn’t committed an NCAA infraction.

Petrino’s past should be taken into account as well. He has never been known as the most loyal coach. The intense football coach met with schools almost every year when he was at Louisville – he once even met with Auburn officials while Tommy Tuberville was still their coach. Heck, he took the Arkansas job before completing the season as the Atlanta Falcons’ coach. The Razorback administration obviously knows that Petrino’s loyalty is in question – hence the enormous $18 million dollar buyout in Petrino’s contract – essentially a poison pill, forcing Petrino to stay at Arkansas.

I think what they must examine, to be fair, is how long the relationship went on between Petrino and Dorrell. Also, it must be determined whether Petrino broke any laws by hiring Dorrell over other applicants. If he didn’t give other applicants a fair shake, then there is a problem. I want to be clear –  Petrino isn’t the first public figure to hire a mistress, but that doesn’t make it right. The Razorback higher-ups may have grounds for termination, and won’t be on the hook for any financial obligations.

The administration has to make a swift decision, before the media forces their hand. If they fire Petrino; they will set a great precedent that organizations and programs will no longer accept sub-standard behavior from football coaches – regardless of their winning percentage.

Do you feel Petrino should be fired?

Jeremiah Short covers Mississippi State University football and basketball.  Follow him on Twitter, @JeremiahShort26; join his Facebook blog, Real Story Sports: J.Short’s Blog, or e-mail him,

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4 Comments on “Arkansas Needs To Set a Precedent”

  1. Raider Says:

    I agree that Petrino should be fired but grouping him in with Tressel, Paterno and Greg Williams situations is a little far fetched. When you group them all together it appears you have basically just reduced it down to…they are all football coaches that did something wrong, therefore they are all the same. I disagree. I think all the other coaches were guilty of much more egregious conduct than this. In the case of Tressel, he was out right cheating, lying about it and letting University officials unknowingly lie about it. He allowed the lies to continue for months and tried to cover them up. Greg Lewis continued a banned practice that he was actively being investigated for. He showed a total disregard for player safety, league rules and the leagues authority. You got the Paterno thing dead on. However, Petrino should be fired because he is sleeping with a subordinant. On top of that, he had an accident with her on the motorcycle. I suspect that she will be collecting a pretty good payout soon. But let’s be honest. football pays for a lot of things. He has the number 5 program in the country. You can bet that there are many boosters that will support him no matter what. It would not surprise me if he kept his job.


  2. matt alexander Says:

    also bruce pearl was fired/banned /suspended for lieing to the ncaa as well i think. this will be a HUGE black eye to the U of A if he is not fired. i think jeff long will be afraid to fire petrino knowing that the mobs of fans will be outside his office; calling for his head. so his question will be, “do i folow moral standards or do i do the popular thing”. he did just hire ms. dorrell, but promoted her to be his direct subordinate. that has to violate some law considering he works for the state of arkansas since upig is a public university!


  3. eatdrnkslpsprtz Says:

    Great post, its unfortunate that IS DOES NOT ALWAYS EQUAL OUGHT. Do you think Rick Pitino should have been fired for his sex schandal? Its hard to imagine parents entrusting their children to a coach with a flawed moral compass, if you cheat in life what’s to stop you from cheating in recruiting or during a game??? Here’s my top five list of coaches most deserving of pink slips due to sex scandals and pending NCAA iinvestigation but due to their record they will remain gainfully employed:

    1. Rick Pitino – Louisville Basketball Head Coach
    2. Jim Calhoun – UConn Basketball Head Coach
    3. Bobby Petrino – Arkansas Football Head Coach
    4. Pete Carroll – former USC Football Head Coach


    • Jeremiah Short Says:

      You have a good point. Carroll did bolt to the NFL. So, he got out before the heat got to hot.


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