Bobby Petrino: The inevitable crack-up

April 10, 2012

You didn’t have to be psychic or even terribly prescient to see this coming. On the day Bobby Petrino was hired as the head football coach at the University of Arkansas, I e-mailed a friend of mine who is, as they say, “close to the program,” a single question: “Would you honestly want your son to play for this guy?”

It was sort of a sincere question. All I knew about Petrino was the bad stuff that had been reported — his clandestine flirtation with Auburn, his quitting on the Atlanta Falcons, etc …

Maybe he was a good guy deep down. Maybe there were extenuating circumstances. Maybe my friend knew something I didn’t.
But he never really answered my question either.

I’ve been fairly supportive of Petrino over the past few years, largely because I liked what I saw from him as a football coach. He did not — like some coaches — seem to think he was any more important than his job. He did not overly praise himself or talk down to Jesus. He didn’t seem to hold himself out as a moral example. And he could coach.


And I guess I’m not really all that disappointed in finding out what we’ve found out recently. I never gave much thought as to whether Petrino was a good guy or not. Lots of supercompetent people aren’t good guys. To quote my buddy the sportswriter S.L. Price, “your hero is not a good guy.” I don’t expect people who’ve been treated the way Bobby Petrino has been treated for most of his adult life to have the common touch. He’s got sycophants and graduate assistants, a State Police-supplied valet, all kinds of weird perks that normal people can’t even imagine.

If you’re his buddy, he might be warm and personable — a fun person to be around. Lord knows there are newspaper columnists who’ll attest to his goodness and decency. I don’t really believe that, but what do I know? I ain’t nothing to Bobby Petrino.

And here’s the deal — I don’t really think this is the time to opinionize about Petrino, to wonder aloud whether he ought to be fired or not. It’s the time to report the facts of the story. I want someone to tell me about how this young woman, with whom BP has admitted to having “a previous inappropriate relationship” came to be hired four days before that fateful motorcycle ride.

I want to know who — if anyone — else was considered for that job. I want to know what her qualifications were, and whether or not her friend Bobby had any say in her hiring. I want to know if any laws were broken, or skirted, and if Petrino was required to disclose this relationship with a subordinate to his employers, and if he was so required, if he did so.

Everybody understands that Petrino is not just another state employee. Everybody understands that. Were he an English professor, he’d already be out on his ear, regardless of whether he could explain the situation or not.

That said, I hope he’s not as stupid as this situation makes him look. I hope he’s only been a lecherous — or a silly — old fool. If that’s all he’s been, then he can keep his job. I wouldn’t want my son to play for him, but then I don’t have a son, and I decided that before the University of Arkansas decided to hire him anyway.


  • Comment by tmfw — Apr 10,2012 at 4:04 pm

    While I made no secret of my disdain for the sonuvabitch I sure didn’t see this coming. And I agree with you. The only thing that matters insofar as his employment status is concerned is how that girl came to get hired. That’s the only aspect of this sordid little tale that is fraught with legal consequences.

  • Comment by dhm — Apr 13,2012 at 7:00 am

    That’s a good quote from Price. Was he referring to heroes in general, sports heroes, or someone in particular? Book, article, or conversation? Thanks.

  • Comment by Philip Martin — Apr 13,2012 at 7:36 am

    It was in a Sports Illustrated story about, among others, Michael Jordan, Lance Armstrong and Tiger Woods. It’s reprinted in his book Far Afield, which I believe is still in print.

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