FAYETTEVILLE - SEPTEMBER 25: Head coach Bobby Petrino and quarterback Ryan Mallett #15 of the Arkansas Razorbacks look on during the first half against the Alabama Crimson Tide at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium on September 25 2010 in Fayetteville Arkansas. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Over the past several days, many have opined that Arkansas AD Jeff Long would fail to bow to national public opinion by firing Bobby Petrino, preferring instead to keep the winning coach on board at the request of the Arkansas fan base. This situation, many said, would test whether Long preferred a football program that is a winner or one whose leadership exhibits high moral standing, and moral standing would lose.
Well, we now know the result of L'affaire Petrino: The Boss Hog is out. However, let's not call Long the last champion of morality in a decadent world just yet. Despite his rhetoric about wanting to make sure that everyone knows that Petrino isn't bigger than Arkansas football, Long didn't have to make much of a judgment call here; the facts of the case made them for him. ESPN's Mark Schlabach explains:
Petrino was dumped nine days after he wrecked his motorcycle during a Sunday joy ride on April 1. Petrino made Long the April's fool, initially failing to tell his boss that there was a female passenger on the back of his Harley-Davidson. If Petrino's cover up had ended there, he might have survived an embarrassing extramarital affair, at least professionally.
But the woman on the back of Petrino's motorcycle, Jessica Dorrell, was an Arkansas athletics department employee. Until a couple of weeks ago, Dorrell worked as a fundraiser for the Razorbacks, raising money for athletic scholarships and facilities. But then Petrino hired Dorrell, a 25-year-old former Arkansas volleyball player, as his football program's student-athlete development coordinator on March 28.
As Schlabach's statements imply, the real problem here is that Petrino hired Dorrell, hired her, as the article goes onto tell, long after they initiated their relationship. And that's not all:
Long said Tuesday night that Dorrell was one of three finalists among 159 candidates for the job. Petrino never revealed he was having an affair with Dorrell, or that he had made a $20,000 gift to her. Long said their relationship had been going on for a "significant period of time."
These are the facts that put the finishing touches on the case against Petrino. By hiring his mistress over 159 other candidates, doing so, according to Long, without proper attention to affirmative-action protocol, Petrino opened up Arkansas to immense costs in the form of employment discrimination lawsuits, not to mention potential sexual harassment lawsuits from Dorrell herself. I'd go even further than Schlabach in saying that this was as much a legal / financial as it was a morality / trust issue.
That said, Long does deserve credit for making this decision. He could, I suppose, have chosen to brave a losing battle against costly litigation in order to keep his winning football coach. Perhaps it wouldn't have been a bad investment, considering Petrino's obvious talents. But immorality, deceit, discrimination, and the host of Petrino's other sins proved too much in this case, and Long washed his hands of the situation. Of course, as Schlabach says, the truly right thing to have done in this situation would have been to never have hired Petrino in the first place--but at least Long did the right, even if the inevitable, thing this time around. Schlabach gets it right here:
Give Long credit for making a difficult decision. He made the right one, but it's only a correction from an egregious mistake he made four years ago -- hiring Petrino in the first place. Long made the Hogs' bed -- he finally decided to get rid of the fleas Tuesday.
That more or less says it all.