Arkansas Fires Head Football Coach Bobby Petrino (w/ VIDEO)
Message for you from Donald trump, Mr. Petrino.
Four and a half years after Bobby Petrino essentially "fired" the Atlanta Falcons as his employer by leaving a note for the players and sneaking off to the University of Arkansas in the middle of the night, Razorbacks athletics director Jeff Long notified a hastily assembled media throng last night that Petrino had been terminated by the university for transgressions related to an extramarital affair with a 25-year-old subordinate named Jessica Dorrell -- an affair that was revealed only because Petrino lost control of his motorcycle ten days ago with Dorrell on the back due to
a Dorrell reacharound an alleged, ahem, gust of wind.
The university actually fired Bobby Petrino by sending him a letter. Indeed, what comes around goes around.
Long detailed a laundry list of misdeeds that Petrino perpetrated in his position as perhaps the most powerful man at the school, including (but not limited to) giving his mistress Dorrell a position within his staff that was a good-enough job for 158 other candidates to ask to be considered (presumably, none of whom had Dorrell's inherent hiring advantage of frequent sex with Petrino).
Additionally, it came out that somewhere along, the way Petrino gifted $20,000 out of his own pocket to Dorrell, for what we do not know, but naturally speculation ranges from
the world's most costly and extravagant abortion to hush money for keeping the affair their own little secret.
Above all else, it was Petrino's decision to mislead the school on the details of his crash on Sunday that did him in as much as anything:
"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."
As mentioned above, Long, who hired Petrino back in late 2007, was on the verge of tears at times during the press conference, particularly when talking about his notifying the student-athletes of his decision to fire Petrino. Although according to CBS's Spencer Tillman on our show today on 1560 The Game, the Arkansas players don't appear to be all that broken up over the turn of events. (Think Wicked Witch of the West's guards after Dorothy "liquidated" her.)
University of Houston Cougars Football vs. Louisville Cardinals College Football
TicketsThu., Nov. 17, 7:00pm
Rice University Owls Football vs. UTEP Miner Football
TicketsSat., Nov. 19, 11:00am
SWAC Football Championship
TicketsSat., Dec. 3, 3:00pm
TicketsSat., Jan. 7, 7:00pm
Long's near-tears seem heartfelt and are probably wrapped up in a feeling of betrayal as much as anything else, but for him and the Arkansas brass to be caught off guard by Petrino's reckless disregard for the rules is naive at best and disingenuous at worst. I mean, the guy left the NFL via a good-bye on a Post-it note. At some point, his inability to conduct himself ethically wasn't going to catch up with you, too, Arkansas?
In addition to the inherent embarrassment and joblessness coming with termination, Petrino will also have to deal with forgoing the $18 million buyout in his contract; a termination "with cause" (and this termination is swimming in cause) means Petrino gets NOTHING. (Cue, Willy Wonka screaming "GOOD DAY SIR!")
Petrino issued an apology via the following statement last night:
"The simplest response I have is: I'm sorry. These two words seem very inadequate. But that is my heart," Petrino said in a statement. "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 but 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."
Petrino will now try and go pick up the pieces of his marriage and his career, and frankly I don't know which one will be more difficult to resurrect. Clearly, he's a better football coach than he is a husband, but who is going to hire him? If his 3-10 record in Atlanta was the lighter fluid, then his impersonal, unapologetic departure was the lit match on the NFL bridge; that thing is burned to the ground.
As for another college job, the path back from disgrace rarely runs immediately through a marquee program. Ask UTEP head coach Mike Price. He was the Alabama head coach for one round of spring practice before alleged improper behavior (strippers were supposedly involved) cost him his job about a decade ago. He's been stuck in El Paso ever since. And frankly, if you're a non-BCS school, is it worth getting a couple good years out of Petrino knowing full well that this guy will jump at a chance to leave good jobs when he gets the chance, let alone your mid-level gig at some backwater directional school?
And as far as Arkansas now filling their vacancy goes, unless Gus Malzahn or Skip Holtz jump at the position in the next several days, my guess is that we will see an interim promotion from within for 2012 before they end up making a permanent hire sometime before the 2013 season, not unlike what Ohio State did this past season after firing Jim Tressel on Memorial Day 2011.
For the most part, though, we can close the book on this sordid Petrino saga. All's well that ends well, the bad guy loses and we get to recap it with a simple animated GIF, courtesy of the good folks at everydayshouldbesaturday.com:
Hogs get fed, pigs get slaughtered. Petrino is a pig. WHOA PIG SOOIE!
Listen to Sean Pendergast on 1560 The Game from 6 a.m. to 11 a.m. weekdays, and watch the simulcast on Comcast 129 from 6 a.m. to 7:30 a.m. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss Houston Press' biggest stories.