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Support Group Rallies To Back Petrino As A.D. Long Tries To Navigate Major Mess

(If you read an early version of this story, please re-fresh.  A “draft” when up with multiple errors.  Apologies.)

Ya gotta love double-standards.  Trust me, at MrSEC.com, we see ‘em everyday.

If Team X’s coach jaywalks, Team Y’s fans want him drawn and quartered.  But if Team Y’s coach takes a family hostage, burns down a church and Roseanne Barr’s the National Anthem — yep, used that as a verb — then their coach deserves a second chance.

And then there’s the double-standard within that double-standard.  Team Y’s fans’ look-the-other-way attitude only exists if Team Y’s coach is winning.  If Team Y’s coach is losing, then they — like the fans of Team X — will yelp for the man’s dismissal.

That very scenario is playing out in Arkansas right now.  Some fans want Bobby Petrino gone because he apparently messed around on his wife.  But another group want him to keep his job ’cause — let’s face it — he’s led the Razorbacks out of the wilderness!  Arkansas is winning football games again.  And even some of those who told ESPN over the weekend that they want Petrino to keep his job, admit they might have a different take if he were losing games:

As we discussed last week, we don’t think the “moral” clause of Petrino’s contract will be his undoing.  There is a line of thinking that goes like this: “If you don’t invoke the moral turpitude clause now, when do you?”  Makes sense, but see the bit about double-standards above.  You invoke it the next time a losing badminton coach urinates in public.  Who cares if people say UA has a double-standard?  Everyone does.

It’s clear at this point that Arkansas wants to keep Petrino if at all possible.  He’s worth millions of dollars in cash and exposure — the good, football kind — for the university.  If they find a way to hang onto him, yes, the school will take a few kicks to the ribs from rival recruiters and the national press, but if Petrino keeps winning — and here’s betting he would — that’ll all go bye-bye.

I watched Louisville reach the Final Four this season and I didn’t hear anyone bring up the school’s 2009 decision to stand by Rick Pitino after his sex scandal.

And Arkansas wouldn’t be the first group to be right out front with its double-standard.  See: Newt Gingrich backers who once went after Bill Clinton.  And see: Democrats who now throw low-blows at Gingrich for doing what Clinton did.  Happens every day.  “My guy can do anything he likes, your guy better mind his Ps and Qs.”

At this point, Arkansas AD Jeff Long is likely dealing with a number of groups as he tries to find his way out of mess he didn’t make.  Those people include:

1.  Jessica Dorrell and her betrothed.  Both work for the University of Arkansas.  She can sue the school and/or Petrino for sexual harassment.  Right now the school is most likely trying to find out what it will cost to keep Dorrell and her fiance quiet.  (Sidenote — The folks who initially found Petrino and Dorrell on the side of the road stated that Petrino was alone.  Now they’ve gone into silent mode.  Do they have more dirt to share about what the coach and Dorrell told them?  Might they want some hush money, too?)

2.  Petrino himself.  More than likely the school’s PR wing is cooking up a statement this instant that the coach can read at a presser should he be retained.  At the same time, Long has to be grilling Petrino to come clean on everything that the coach did wrong in this situation.  He’ll also want to know if there are any other skeletons in Petrino’s closet.

3.  The UA legal team and some additional group of private investigators.  The school needs to be thinking of every possible lawsuit that could come its way and it needs to be ready with a defense for each should it hang on to Petrino.  And remember, from Clinton to Tiger Woods, when dirt is found on a celebrity, more and more people tend to come out of the woodwork with new stories, true or not.  If Arkansas keeps Petrino, the school will want to be sure tales of another “inappropriate relationship” aren’t just around the corner.  Also, if Petrino stays, the school will no doubt penalize the coach with a tougher contract worth less cash.  All this is tied to the schools’ lawyers.  (If Petrino’s wise, he’ll take whatever lifeline the school may throw him… winner or not, it would be hard for another school or NFL team to bring him in anytime soon thanks to his various past actions.)

5.  The police.  The Arkansas State Police are now asking questions about the handling of the initial accident.  Just how inappropriately did the officer from Petrino’s in-season security detail act in order to keep Petrino’s dirty laundry in the hamper, so to speak?  If a police officer loses his job over all this, it’ll be an even more difficult sell to keep Petrino.

6.  UA chancellor G. David Gearhart and the school’s board.  This is a group that’s well aware of the money Petino has brought into the school.  It’s also a group that will want to protect the University of Arkansas’ name from being dragged through the mud.  As a prominent booster of another school told me last week, “Usually the ‘he wins’ crowd holds sway over the ‘he’s damaged our good name’ crowd.”  That said, some/many/all of these people might be so ticked that Petrino lied to them and put them into this mess that they’re ready to part with him regardless of the fallout.

7.  The school’s biggest boosters.  Long and Arkansas are raising money with ease these days.  A new football facility is going up thanks to Petrino’s on-field success.  If the biggest boosters at the school threaten to hold back some of their cash pending the outcome of the Petrino scandal, that’s an additional headache for Long.  And it’s likely that some of the biggest boosters will want the coach to stay while a few others might worry more about UA’s reputation.  Long probably won’t get 100% backing from the Razorbacks’ top boosters regardless of what he decides to do.

At this point, like Long, you should probably be keeping tabs on the police investigation into this matter.  If heads roll and charges are filed on that front, Petrino’s probably finished.

If the police investigation yields no further damage, we at MrSEC.com expect the school will do everything possible to keep the coach in the fold, double-standards be damned.

A couple of sidenotes on the situation this morning:

* Robbie Neiswanger of ArkansasNews.com writes that Long is in new territory with this mess.

* “Team Petrino” has formed as a support group for the coach and has launched a Facebook page calling for the school to keep him.  They’re also planning a Monday rally for Petrino.  (See all that stuff about double-standards above.  Gotta wonder how many of these “Team Petrino” folks have ripped, Clinton, Gingrich, Pitino, Woods and others?)

 


18 comments
Fayettechill14
Fayettechill14

For the record fewer than 100 people showed up the protest, which ended after 35 unorganized minutes. Even those that agreed with keeping Petrino realize that a protest is not the way to go about a delicate situation such as this.

FallsChurchDore
FallsChurchDore

Can I ask just one question.  If Ms. Dorrell was on the motorcycle with Petrino at the time of the accident, how in the world did she apparently escape uninjured?  Petrino looked pretty bad at his press conference, and I have a hard time believing that anyone else on the bike at that same time could leave unscathed.

Fayettechill14
Fayettechill14

When the incident was first made public on Thursday, I thought Petrino should be fired. I was ostracized from Hogville for voicing that opinion. But the more I think about it, the more I realize that it must be dealt with the way these things are dealt with in the business world, because it's undeniable that college football is a business: Arkansas' football program is worth a whopping $89 million. It's by no means "just a game."

 

In business, if an employee makes a huge mistake like Petrino's, the employer gets out the scales. What good has he given us during his time, and what has this incident taken away from us?, the employer asks. Well, let's see what Petrino has given Arkansas: a 59% increase in value since 2009, plans and the beginning of construction for a $40 million football operations center, plans for expansion of Razorback Stadium to 82,000 for the 2013 season, over $500,000 in personal donations to the Arkansas Children's Hospital, and a complete reigniting of the long-time football fanbase and new fans everywhere. I'd say he'd have to do something pretty bad to be fired for this.

 

I don't buy the "we can't recruit!" nonsense...we can't recruit anyway, we were 9th in the SEC in recruiting this year...and plenty of coaches, namely Pitino, survived a similar scandal and have landed top-10 classes in years since. I'm not so sure about the legal angle either: none of the parties involved would want Petrino ousted, so I doubt they would sue. Jessica Dorrell would be the most hated person in Arkansas history if she doesn't waive her right to sue for sexual harassment (some hush money might help), and none of the others that applied for the job really have a case, since Dorrell was more than qualified.

 

Morally, I view myself as a moral person, and this is despicable what happened. It's also despicable that Petrino lied to Jeff Long and to the media (and thus, all of us). However, like it or not, coaches aren't "role models" anymore. I wish they were. But don't be naive and act like some poor, innocent 18-year old athlete is going to be led astray by the big bad head coach. Since this is Petrino's first offense here, I think the university can slide the moral issue.

 

Ultimately, I think he'll be kept because he's among the best in the NCAA at doing his very difficult job. In some ways, that's fair, in any job if you're really good at what you do, you have some leeway for non-job-related screwups. A screwup like this one? That's the debate, and I'll certainly respect Jeff Long's decision no matter what he decides.

tiderhawk
tiderhawk

Maybe this is not a good comparison, but if Tressel and JoPa can get canned for off the field problems, certainly Ark can part with this guy. I worked in corp. America and no way someone would survice this.  I am not an attorney, but the future legal implications are endless. While you could put him on a short leash, certainly he has proven multiple times he has bad judgement. Lastly, I think if he stays, he is damaged goods. What mom is going to encourage her son to go there?  Also, rival schools will kill Ark with this.  "Son, who knows how long Petrino will be around-he is on thin ice with his boss, etc."  

Geemom
Geemom

Everyone seems fixated on the sex part of this but I don't think that is the problem for UA.  Since he didn't lie to the NCAA (Pearl) and the coach is popular and winning, I can see the UA  not pursuing the "conduct clause" without too much damage.  The problem for UA is the hiring of person he was having sex with. Using taxpaper money no less.  Say the AD can settle this with the girl and her fiance (poor guy), there are STILL a lot of problems left for UA.  I imagine the majority of the folks looking the other way on this one issue, would march to shut down the federal government, if some fed gave 55K to hire his/her girlfriend/boyfriend!

 

1) what about any past firings for sexual harrassment?  All of those folks will now sue UA if they keep Petrino. and

2) what about future cases of sexual harrassment? Anyone fired will sue, but if they aren't fired the victim can sue ( and probably to a whole new level of compensation: millions not hundreds of thousands)

This really is mind-boggling how Petrino has left the university exposed legally and financially. I don't think keeping Petrino will affect thier recruiting too much, however, the level of ridicule from other schools when they play will be extremely intense.  UA will be a massive joke with Petrino onboard. This also does not help the reputation of the SEC if they keep him.

 

I have never had an opinion one way or the other for UA or their coach, but I truely feel for the AD right now.  He, and the university, can't get out of this unscathed no matter what they do.  I do think that this AD will do a thorough job and I hope he doesn't lose his job for this. 

ChrisWynes
ChrisWynes

If you have sex with one of your employees, and that employee is half your age and engaged to another one of your employees, and you only hired this person in the first place because you were having sex with them... you're a pretty bad manager. You probably shouldn't be trusted to run the night shift at a Church's Chicken, let alone a major Division 1 college football program.

Bubba Gump
Bubba Gump

John,

 

This may actually be a blessing for Arkansas. In stocks you generally want to buy low and sell high, so maybe this gives Long the opportunity to get a coach at the next level while Arkansas is hot! I can see both sides, but as an older person, the whole thing has flashbacks to Charlie Pell / Galen Hall and the Florida Gators. Granted one was cheating on the field and the other was cheating in their personal life, but the end result could be the same. No one who actually lived through the Carlie Pell thing can argue that he did not become the touchstone between "old" Florida and "new" Florida. He was the transition from the normal Gator teams to what they became, but he was no Spurrier. Would anybody today say Florida did the wrong thing hiring Spurrier, but it was not a home run at the time.

 

Like Pell, Petrino has taken the Hogs to the next step, but still has not shown the ability to be a MNC coach. Sure coaching U of L to that many wins is good, but in the SEC the wins do not come as easily. Petrino had to come back against a 6-6 TAMU this season, and KSU with Snyder is still KSU. If not for the sanctions, the Hogs still lost to the Buckeyes, which is a feat all the other SEC schools have been able to accomplish. Spurrier went 9-2 in his first season at Florida, which meant he did so with the vast majority of Pell's recruits. This is not basketball with "one and dones" but college football where the window is between 2 and 4 years. Spurrier went 10-2 in his second season and it was his 4th season that he won the Sugar Bowl. In between In between the Gators finished 1st every year with players carried over from the previous coaching staff.

 

Again, not taking either side, but trying to look at it objectively (and with a longer view than Hog fans just eyeing this fall) this may be the time for Long to use the current donors to find the real MNC coach for the Hogs while the window is still open. Sure the Tide and Tigers come to Fayetteville, but keep in mind that the Hogs will have to travel to Auburn, South Carolina, Mississippi State, and TAMU. if the Hogs drop the first 2 to Alabama and LSU, I can easily see them only taking 2 of the other 4. That means the Hogs will go 8 - 4 and all those Hogs fans wearing red colored glasses may think quite a bit differently at seasons end than they do now.

 

in short, Petrino has taken them to the promised land like Moses and Pell, but maybe now is the time to solidify the next level while the iron is hot! It is still the spring, so a new coach will have the time to transition and take advantage of the players Petrino already has like Spurrier did with Pells players. The question then becomes who is Spurrier like, thatLong should have on his short list?

MiloMoon
MiloMoon

I have stated from the beginning that the "inappropriate relationship" would not be his undoing. Contrary to Dodd's article, the fact that he cheated on his wife would not hurt him in recruiting 17/18 year old kids. Mom be damned. What will be his undoing, if he is fired, will be the cover-up and the hiring of an employee that he was/is having an  "inappropriate relationship". How long has this relationship been going on? Did it involve her when she was still a student, or other students on campus? If she is the only girl involved and the "inappropriate relationship" is not that old, I see him surviving with a major hit in the wallet. However if there is more dirt that they are uncovering, or if they need to protect themselves from lawsuits - he is gone. 

ascensionhog
ascensionhog

I have a idea, lets stone Petrino to death, and all that are free of sin can throw first !!!

ChrisWynes
ChrisWynes

@Fayettechill14 Man, I don't know where YOU work, but if you think that as a supervisor you could hire your mistress and lie to your boss about a major public relations fiasco in the making and still keep your job, I bet your HR department has other ideas. There wouldn't be any balancing of the good work you've done against the negative press and possible tort liability. You would be out the door by Friday one way or the other, after all the lawyers figured out the optimal way to fire you.

GeoffDawg
GeoffDawg

@tiderhawk You’re right about the possible unforeseen ramifications of keeping Petrino. Say they decide to keep him and then the gymnastics coach gets busted playing “hide the pommel horse”. The claimant’s attorney could easily point to Petrino as creating a trend within the administration where this type of behavior is tolerated and expected. The liability would go up exponentially. I suppose some form of drastic punishment like a long suspension or salary forfeiture could work as well but it’s hard to see UA keeping this guy.

ChrisWynes
ChrisWynes

@Geemom I think you've hit on the issue here pretty well. It's not about the double-standard between your coach and mine or between a winning coach and a losing coach. It's about the double-standard between the head football coach and every other employee of the athletic department that either has in the past or will in the future commit such brazen violations of sexual harassment policy, up to and including what may have been a quid pro quo job-for-sex arrangement. If the athletic department doesn't fire him for this, what kind of message are they sending to other employees of the department? Aren't they basically encouraging sexual harassment by doing nothing in this scenario? Can you say "hostile work environment"? Lawyers sure can.

beoti
beoti

I have been flummoxed by the repeated assertions that Bobby Petrino should be retained because he is an elite coach.  I'm not old enough to be familiar with the Pell situation, but Petrino reminds me of Jim Donnan.  A coach who will field well hyped teams only to repeatedly falter in the marquee match-ups.  While Arkansas may enjoy a few seasons of consistent winning, they will tire of never taking the next step...and I just don't see it from Bobby Petrino who never seems to put everything together at once.

buddha22
buddha22

Maybe her father or fiance like the "eye for an eye" aspect of this?

Fayettechill14
Fayettechill14

 @ChrisWynes The following CEOs survived much-publicized sexual affairs because of all the good they brought their companies:

-Jack Welch, GE (2002)

-Dov Charney, American Apparel (2004 AND 2005)

-John Dodds, KIE (2006)

-Mark McInnes, David Jones Ltd. (2006)

-Charles Phillips, Oracle (2007)

-Stephen Heyer, Starwood (2007)

 

Bobby Petrino is essentially a CEO, because he is the head of a football program worth $89 million. He gets primary responsibility for the 59% increase in value since 2009 in the Razorback football program.

ChrisWynes
ChrisWynes

@Fayettechill14 Jack Welch, at least, did not diddle one of his employees, he had an affair with some publisher or something. I can't say I'm familiar with any of the others. An extramarital affair isn't what matters, that's not something for the public nor the employer to worry about normally. Nobody would be firing him for that, and probably not even for lying about it, which the public usually gives people a pass on (Bill Clinton could tell you that.) It's the fact that it's with a subordinate employee that matters. In fact, strategically speaking, if you can focus media attention on the affair and minimize the coverage of the sexual harassment issues, you can deflect alot of the criticism (as James Carville could tell you, lol.)

Trackbacks

  1. News | MrSEC says:

    [...] posted a few of his views on the Bobby Petrino subject today and they fall right in line with what we wrote yesterday.  A sampling:“Opinion is all over the place and the two extremes are espoused by those [...]



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