Saturday, April 07, 2012

Bobby Petrino done screwed up

So ... the Bobby Petrino thing (it's almost like I just typed those words). It's much, much worse than expected, which is why it's now the stickied-at-the-top-of-ESPN story I thought it should have been a few days ago.

The "much, much worse" part has nothing to do with the crash itself and everything to do with the passenger he conveniently forgot to tell everybody except the police about:

Petrino was not cited by state police and was described by troopers as cooperative after the accident on a rural road 20 miles outside Fayetteville.

What has him in trouble is his attempt to keep anyone from finding out he was riding with Dorrell, a 25-year-old former Arkansas volleyball player who he hired just last week.

Dorrell, who has not returned messages seeking comment, was previously a fundraiser for the Razorback Foundation before being selected March 28 as the student-athlete development coordinator for Arkansas football. She is in charge of organizing on-campus recruiting visits for the team, including initial eligibility for each incoming player.
Derp. And this was not an unfortunately timed ride home; Petrino (who's married with four kids) said publicly the other day that he's admitted an "inappropriate relationship" to his family, although he apparently didn't admit it to Arkansas AD Jeff Long until about four seconds before the police report came out:
Long only learned Dorrell was on the motorcycle shortly before state police released their accident report on Thursday. Petrino initially said he was riding alone after a day off with his wife at a lake.
He jus' keeeeeding! Lying to your boss about an accident involving an employee you're having an affair with: Always a good idea. Long is obviously less than thrilled and is saying ominous things about an "ongoing review" of Petrino's job status that might or might not be a step toward the firing of the best coach Arkansas has had since Frank Broyles.

Whether that hypothetical firing is warranted is a subjective matter that depends a lot on your opinion of affairs and not telling the whole truth and the like. There's an easy argument for it. There's an easy argument against it. I'm decidedly on the fence; the issue for me isn't the affair (a purely personal issue) or even the nondisclosure of said affair (which would be rather uncomfortable for everybody) but the fact that he had some sort of "inappropriate relationship" with a chick he just hired for a fairly prominent and presumably decent-paying state job. The chances of that hiring being based on her resume/qualifications and not the relationship-type thing: close to zero. That's not illegal but goes a step beyond nepotism, IMO.

Zoomed out, I'm still not sure that's sufficient to fire a guy (regardless of quality, which is probably a factor to some degree given that there aren't regularly Bobby Petrino-caliber candidates hangin' around waiting for a call from Arkansas). I'm also not Jeff Long, which means my opinion means absolutely nothing since I don't get to decide whether the affair/coverup/hiring awkwardness "adversely affects the reputation of the (university's) athletics programs."

Speaking of which, ESPN has a couple interesting legalese-specific outtakes. The first:
"That (contract) is very favorable to the university," said Matt Mitten, director of the National Sports Law Institute at Marquette. "It gives them a pretty broad range of discretion in determining what negatively affected the university's athletic program or what they think in conduct inconsistent with the head coach."
The second:
"They kind of have a problem if they don't terminate for cause because then, if he subsequently does something else, it kind of is an indication the university didn't take all that seriously its ability to terminate for cause when it had an opportunity to do it," said Ray Yasser, a law professor at the University of Tulsa who specializes in sports law.
Valid point, although the same could be said for any coach who's ever done anything that could technically fall within the range of fireable offenses. Every situation is different, first offense, blah blah blah. Whether consistency/fairness makes any difference to Long is (a) the only thing that matters here and (b) totally unknown given his vague statements so far.

There are three possible scenarios here (unless I'm missing something): Petrino gets canned, Petrino gets suspended for some amount of time/games or Petrino gets some sort of private tsk-tsking that bears no relevance on Arkansas football. I have no idea which of those is most likely but am 100 percent certain which of those would be most problematic for Arkansas.

I will now copy and paste some words I wrote the other day about hypothetical concerns:
... if he's really in crappy shape and isn't physically capable of being in attendance, Arkansas might have some issues on offense. Petrino has called his own plays for as long as I've been paying attention to stuff like that and doesn't even have the option of continuity since O-coordinator Garrick McGee left to take the head coaching job at UAB about five months ago.

The guy who took McGee's spot: Paul Petrino. Whether that's a good thing or not is pretty tough to say given that the large majority of his career had been spent working right under Bobby until he went to Illinois and had one pretty good year in 2010 (45th in yardage) and one pretty crappy one in 2011 (85th in yardage). Those data points are (a) wildly variant and (b) have to be filtered through the stink of Ron Zook strategory, which means you should probably pay them even less attention than you would normally pay a tiny sample of unrelated numbers. Woo.

Fortunately for Arkansas, this probably won't be relevant at all; I type just to hear the soothing sound of my fingers punching keys. The most likely scenario (IMO) involves Bobby Petrino healing/recovering sufficiently to be back to his relative norm by July for fall camp, which yay happy times. The alternative scenario involves the healing/recovering thing not going so well and Arkansas getting stuck with some undesirable decisions about its 2012 coaching staff, specifically who's gonna be in charge of it.
The latter decision has already been made: Taver Johnson, who was hired just a couple months ago as assistant head coach/linebackers coach, is now the interim dude in charge. He came from Ohio State (he was cornerbacks coach under CheatyPants McSweaterVest) and therefore might be a coach-destroying witch. He's also never been as much as a coordinator, which isn't a guarantee of failure but isn't a typical road to awesomeness either. It's highly unlikely he'll end up with the permanent job under any circumstances other than a Petrino firing followed by a BCS(-ish) season. The relevance of that is extremely debatable given that he might not ever coach a game at Arkansas; it's an observation that you can absorb/ignore as you like. The point is that there's no definitively capable replacement for Petrino as coach or O-coordinator, so Arkansas's status is heavily dependent on his.

I offer no predictions here other than a conclusion by the end of spring practice (if for no other reason than Jeff Long's desire to not pull at his necktie for an indefinite amount of time), at which point an announcement will be made, Bobby Petrino will sit in front of a bunch of people with this look on his face ...

... and those people will then write a bunch of stuff urging me to THINK OF THE CHILDREN or give him his personal space or whatever.

You can now fast-forward to the end. You're welcome.


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