Video still, RazorVision
This is bad.
To have been sitting in the shoes of Athletic Director Jeff Long when he was meeting with Coach Petrino on Thursday night, well, that must’ve sucked.
It was bad enough when all that had happened was Petrino’s motorcycle wreck. Sitting there in a neck brace with his scraped up face, he looked horrible. It looked much worse than the damage that had been done.
Two days later, when the police report came out about the accident, all hell broke loose. Instantly, everything that looked bad became worse.
With Coach Petrino now on paid leave, we don’t even know who will be coaching the team this fall.
Bobby Petrino is in a world of hurt right now and I feel for him. Jessica Dorrell is also presumably in a world of hurt right now and I feel for her, too.
But, with every new report about who else was involved, this story is quickly going from bad, to worse, and beyond. The more I learn about what transpired, not only over the weekend, but over the past week and year, I’m running out of people to feel sorry for.
Scratch that. There is one person I certainly still sympathize for — Jeff Long.
I often try to put myself in the shoes of others to hopefully gain a bit of perspective.
It’s safe to say that this is one situation where I don’t want to do that.
If I were Long, I wouldn’t want to think about how this situation is going to play out. Because this isn’t a situation that just plays itself out. Someone is going to make a decision here.
There are plenty of sports journalists out there who don’t usually give Petrino and Arkansas a fair shake. And as Razorbacks fans, seeing how the team has improved each of the four years under Petrino (even amassing a 21-5 record over the past two years), we’re quick to ignore the things our coach has done in the past:
- Going behind the back of former Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville to try and secure the head coaching job there.
- Quitting the Atlanta Falcons job 13 games into the season and heading to Arkansas.
The good news for Petrino is that some successful coaches have overcome bad situations before.
At Louisville, Rick Pitino had an affair with a woman and even paid for her to have an abortion. Pitino is still coaching at Louisville, where he took his team to the Final Four this year.
But the bad news for Petrino is that some successful coaches also haven’t overcome bad situations before.
At Tennessee, former head basketball coach Bruce Pearl was involved in a recruiting scandal and even lied to the NCAA. Pearl was later fired from Tennessee.
We can all agree that Coach Petrino’s situation is different, though, because it’s football and there’s a lot more money involved, right? (That was sarcasm.) In reality, perhaps that may be true. But Jeff Long’s situation is really no different from the Bruce Pearl situation because it involves lying.
Petrino admitted to having a ‘previous inappropriate relationship.’ While not good, this has nothing to do with the situation.
Petrino hired Dorrell to his staff. If it’s she who Petrino had that relationship with, this is Not Good Part A (and Part A carries a ton of potential fallout from those who weren’t hired for the job that could potentially hit the UofA).
Not Good Part B was lying to Long about what transpired over the weekend and then lying to the press two days later.
The good news is that Petrino wants forgiveness and wants to repair all the damage he’s done. Still, Jeff Long has not been put in a good situation.
So, what will it be?
Will Long suspend Petrino, dock him some pay and attach an extremely tight leash? All the while letting the university deal with the potential mess?
Or will Long take a strong stance by firing Petrino and say the University of Arkansas will not put up with this kind of behavior?
I’m just as eager as everyone else to know what’s going on with our football program. But this is one time that I don’t want to feel what Jeff Long is going through and the tough decisions he’ll have to make.
Wear those shoes well, Mr. Long. I’m quite sure they won’t fit me.