Bobby Petrino is a national news story today because he’s embroiled in what looks to be a sex scandal. And this country goes bat guano daffy for a juicy, dirty, gossipy sex scandal.
In this case, the 51-year-old coach had a 25-year-old female on his motorcycle when he crashed it last weekend. Yesterday — with a polic report about to be made public — he admitted the the relationship was “inappropriate.” He said via statement that he hoped to heal his relationships with is family. I think we can assume what all that means.
There are already calls for Petrino’s head. As we told you earlier today, Dennis Dodd of CBSSports.com believes the coach should be booted in part because he won’t be able to recruit anymore. The thought being that players’ mamas are gonna have a hard time believing anything the man says. (As if he didn’t have a bad enough reputation for leaving the Atlanta Falcons midseason and for trying to snake the job of former employer Tommy Tuberville back in the early 2000s.)
But recruiting won’t be Petrino’s undoing. Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino went through his own high-profile sex scandal back in 2009. In the two signing classes that have followed his public flogging, Pitino’s signed one 5-star and four 4-star prospects. He’s also led his team to the Final Four this year and recruiting will likely spike higher from there.
Pitino weathered the recruiting storm and the nasty looks from players’ families. At some point, meeting with the man one on one, it seems a few people found themselves able to actually forgive the man his sins. Imagine the thought.
Petrino won’t be let go at Arkansas because of recruiting concerns. His Razorbacks never finish among the tip-top of the SEC in star rankings anyway. His offensive system is so good he doesn’t need the bluest of blue chip signees to win games. He’s proven that from his own stop at Louisville to Fayetteville.
No, if Petrino gets axed it will be for one of two other reasons, maybe both.
First, he lied. He covered up. He told the press he was alone on his bike at the time of the accident and more importantly he told his bosses he was alone.
Ask Bruce Pearl about cover-ups being bigger than crimes. Ask Jim Tressel if lying doesn’t result in stiffer penalties than breaking NCAA rules. Heck, for that matter, ask Bill Clinton if the cover-up doesn’t bring worse punishment and embarrassment than the breaking of society’s moral rules. Grab a medium, channel Richard Nixon, and query Tricky Dick about the danger of the cover-up.
Pitino — the coach who survived his scandal — came clean. He didn’t mislead the men who hired him.
Petrino was trying to protect his family. That’s understandable. But it might not carry much weight with AD Jeff Long who had to call a late-night presser last night, belly-up to the microphone, and admit that his program had just taken one right on the kisser.
Long took a beating from the national press when he rolled the dice and stole Petrino away from the Falcons back in 2007. Petrino rewarded him with many wins which meant millions more in cash for the UA coffers.
And then he rewarded him with a big ol’ mess.
The cover-up could be the thing that causes Long and Arkansas chancellor G. David Gearhart to lose faith in Petrino and oust him.
If not, then Reason Two could most assuredly bring him down.
Petrino just hired the woman with whom he now admits having had an “inappropriate relationship” with. He hired her March 28th. As in last Wednesday.
Can the University of Arkansas take action against Jessica Dorrell at this point? Probably not. Petrino’s already put them on the hook for a possible sexual harrassment claim. It takes two to tango, so to speak, but Dorrell — due to her age and Petrino’s position of authority over her — likely won’t face the same fate Petrino receives. (Though her life is no doubt more miserable today, too.)
Worse still, the highest-paid employee of the State of Arkansas appears to have put his mistress on the payroll of his football program. Dorrell was already employed by Arkansas’ fund-raising department, but who knows how her salary changed with this latest move? And is her salary paid by self-sufficient athletic department dollars or does that money come from state funds given to the university?
The sex angle makes this mess a big national story.
Hog fans are defending their coach because he wins. Many are already blaming the press for making a big deal of the situation.
Meanwhile, rival fans thump their Bibles and rush to gather up stones (apparently paying no attention to that whole New Testament thing). They’re rejoicing in the downfall of another human being because, well, because that guy beats their favorite football team.
And both groups would be reacting completely differently if Petrino suddenly moved from Arkansas to School X, by the way.
For us at MrSEC.com, this isn’t about the sex scandal. And we don’t think that’s what will matter to Long, Gearhart or the Arkansas administration in the end, either. The fact that Petrino lied to his bosses and put the school in a legally precarious spot by hiring what appears to be his girlfriend will carry a lot more weight with the people making the final call on his tenure.
If Petrino survives, it will be because he wins games and is literally worth millions of dollars in revenue to the school. If he doesn’t, it will be because he covered up and/or hired his mistress.
Those are the facts that matter in this case. The rest is just water-cooler talk.