Last evening, the University of Arkansas pulled the plug on head football coach Bobby Petrino.
The move was somewhat of a surprise given the Hogs prospects for the coming season, but in a nationally televised press conference from Bud Walton Arena, Arkansas athletics director Jeff Long delivered a public pummeling of Petrino:
“He made the decision, a conscious decision, to mislead the public on Tuesday, and in doing so negatively and adversely affected the reputation of the University of Arkansas and our football program,” Long said, choking up at one point as he discussed telling players that their coach was gone. “In short, coach Petrino engaged in a pattern of misleading and manipulative behavior designed to deceive me and members of the athletic staff, both before and after the motorcycle accident.”
In the aftermath of the firing, the public conversation of the mess began to head into a few directions:
Who will replace Petrino? Of all the questions staring at Hog fans, this one is at the top of the list. Does Long stay with an interim – even for the entire 2012 season? Does he go after another “big name” coach? Or does he take his pick from the left over coordinators out there, you know, the ones that didn’t take or couldn’t get a head coaching gig after last season? Regardless, the timing is is horrible. The new coach – assuming a hire from outside – will take over without the benefit of spring practice. When your big names are Davis, Tressel and Malzahn, that option doesn’t appear very appetizing, either. If it was my choice, I would feel around for a legitimate big name coach, but I wouldn’t hesitate to use an interim coach through the season and then try again.
Jeff Long is a leadership ninja, no wait, he hired Petrino in the first place. Yes, Long did hire Petrino and yes, Petrino had some marks against him. But Petrino was a hot commodity and lots of ADs would have hired him in a heartbeat back in 2007. Long had Petrino locked up pretty solid contract-wise, so the biggest issue related to Petrino – bolting – had been addressed. Had he not lost control of his personal life, Petrino would still be considered one of the best coaches in college football. Most folks didn’t think Long (or Arkansas’ brass) would fire Petrino, especially considering how special 2012 was lining up to be. So it did indeed take some guts to pull this trigger.
Petrino had character issues from the start, so why is anyone surprised? Sure, now everyone will now act like this was inevitable. But who’s guess contained a motorcycle crash? Personally, I’m very surprised this happened and how it came to light is stunning. As I mentioned above, Petrino’s previous character issues had been contractually addressed – they related to him leaving. His last contract ensured he wasn’t going anywhere for a long time.
Petrino will never, or should never coach again. Oh, please. America loves a good redemption story and hopefully Petrino will genuinely be changed by this experience. Petrino may soon hit the legal circuit to argue the terms of his dismissal, but at some point he needs to schedule some soul-searching time. As horrible as this is professionally, the people that hire coaches know the story. Yes, he lied and could have violated university policy related to hiring, but from a coaching stand point it could be worse. He could have the dark cloud of the NCAA following him around.
As someone who has messed up quite a bit in life, my heart breaks for both Petrino and his family. It’s easy to make jokes and talk about what a bad dude his is, but I also know that except for God’s grace, I could be going through a similar situation. I truly do hope that Petrino and his family can recover from this. If he’s interested in preserving his marriage, they for sure have a lot of dark days ahead.
This story does remind me of the grace the Lord has shown to me, but it also reminds me to check my priorities. It sounds absolutely foolish for a grown man to parade around on a motorcycle – without a helmet, and with a 25 year old woman on the back. What are the things I’m doing that are either as foolish or that could possibly lead to something as absurd? I pray that the Lord will show them to me before I make a mess of things.