Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Bobby Petrino Gone, Showing Integrity Matters SOMEWHERE in College Football

Ever since the news broke Tuesday night that Bobby Petrino was out as the football coach at Arkansas, I've been battling a couple different reactions.

Frankly, I don't like the idea that Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long should be commended for doing the right thing here, even though the school obviously did just that.

It's not that I disagree. Long clearly didn't want to fire Petrino, but he felt he was given no choice, thanks to the former coach's pattern of deceit. Long did what Long felt was right and necessary, even though it wasn't the desired outcome.

And obviously, given Petrino lied to his bosses about the circumstances surrounding the accident, as well as the reason he hired his mistress for a position within the football program, he had to go. I don't argue for one single solitary second Petrino should have kept his job.

What I don't like is the overwhelming praise being heaped upon Long for doing something that anyone in any sort of management position in any other kind of job in this country would have done. If Michael Scott hired his mistress to work at Dunder Mifflin over 158 other applicants for the job, and didn't bother to tell corporate that he was hiring someone he had a relationship with, Michael Scott would have been fired. Instantly.

(Sorry. It was more exciting to make an Office reference than to talk about myself or use some other dumb pronoun to make an example.)

George Schroeder, a rock-solid scribe, probably said it better than I can.

Look, Long and the Arkansas powerbrokers might have had no other option. It turns out Petrino had given the woman a $20,000 gift, and she got the job in the football office over 158 other applicants. But I agree, it was good to see the school get it right.

It was surprising, too. As the saga played out, I figured they would find a way to retain the coach.

At Arkansas like so many other places, football is too big to fail, which is why I’m more interested in the reaction of those fans at that goofy rally.

As an Arkansan, sure, I cringed, but I understood their passion. In the last few days I heard from several friends back home who were wrestling with the dilemma. The guy who organized the rally put it this way:

“We want to forgive, forget and win.”

Pay close attention to that last part, because it might hit close to home.

Ask yourself: If something similar happened at Oregon, or Oregon State — or insert your favorite school here — what would you want to happen? (Or if, say, the NCAA started digging and found significant issues?)

Integrity sounds nice in theory. But winning usually seems to matter more.

It's easy to talk about integrity, but like Schroeder says, it usually comes down to winning. In this case, however, a program 21-5 the last two years after a lot of mediocrity in recent decades just fired the coach largely responsible for that record and the product that will be on the field this fall.

I am not about to condone what Petrino did, but he probably felt that -- just like at other places in the country -- the coach was big enough to survive a couple off-field missteps. In other words, he thought he was untouchable.

The reaction of the fans -- protesting on his behalf -- certainly would lead one to a similar conclusion. Luckily, Long didn't feel like a few hundred people protesting represented his fanbase, and he didn't think Petrino's actions were those of a man who deserved to keep his job.

When the time comes for Petrino to be judged, I won't be doing the judging. But I sure am glad my son wasn't playing for that smarmy, self-absorbed, poor excuse for a human being. Someone as capable of Petrino's behavior might look like a good coach, but he's not a leader of young men.

In that way, Arkansas wins here, even if the team loses in the short-term without Petrino.

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