As many of you already know, Bobby Petrino was dismissed as head coach of the Arkansas Razorbacks late this afternoon. Jeff Long (Athletic Director) had been pondering this decision since late last week when Petrino was put on administrative leave while Long reviewed and investigated the whole affair (ouch!). ESPN has a little write up here.
I now live in Arkansas and was somewhat surprised that a coach so embraced by the Razorback Nation would be let go. For those that aren't familiar with what set this action in motion - Petrino had a motorcycle accident a week ago Sunday and at the time it was reported that he was out riding, lost control, skidded off the road and sustained some broken ribs, sprained neck and multiple road rashes. Later we all found out he had a passenger, a pretty blond he hired two weeks ago that also happened to be engaged to another staff member. (Read through that again, it boggles the mind.)There is no denying Petrino was wildly popular due to the team's success. Rally's were held to "Save Petrino", call in shows backed him, signs at businesses and op-eds touted the remorse that Petrino was no doubt feeling and the public consensus was that he should be punished in some way put certainly retained to guide the football team to bigger and greater success. The gap between Arkansas and LSU/Bama was closing rapidly and dreams of a National Championship danced in the heads of Razorback faithful.
In one move Jeff Long set this state on its ear and the next few days will be entertaining as people come to grips with what happened. A rock fell off a motorcycle, landed in a placid pond and the ripples will be felt across the state for years. Long will be chastised for taking such drastic action, but I wonder how many ADs would have had the huevos to do the same. I would guess most would first try a couple of weeks of damage control or spinning of the news to find some way to retain a successful coach. Some would just ignore it and move on, pretending nothing happened - Do you hear me Tom Jurich? I've grown to be a fan of the Arkansas football team (until UK decides to take the sport seriously) so at first I was shocked at the the decision. Now I think it is one of the most admirable decisions I've seen from an AD.
Long has decided to that coaches are not above reproach; they live by the same standards as all of us, even a higher standard because of their position and the influence they have over so many young lives. If he kept Petrino, Bobby would have to explain himself to every potential recruit because every team he recruits against would be sure the recruit's parents were aware of Petrino's history. The program would become a laughing stock, or at the least the butt of many jokes. In all, the information against Petrino is embarassing and Arkansas' liberal FOI policy will assure that much more damning information will be forthcoming; so it's better to have that bad press directed firmly at where it belongs and not at the Arkansas football program. Stayed tuned - it will be spicy.