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Abusing power crossed the line

April 16, 2012

There was no denying his coaching ability. After Houston Nutt pretty much jumped ship, maybe under a little pressure, to the Ole Miss Rebels after the 2007 season leaving the Hogs without very much at all, Bobby Petrino took over for the Razorbacks. After a slow start, Petrino took Arkansas to a Bowl Conference Series bowl in 2010 losing to the scandalous Ohio State Buckeyes – when five players should have been suspended for getting tattoos at a discounted price and selling school memorabilia – but the Hogs finished with a 10-3 record. And if not for stupid BCS rules not allowing more than two conference teams to play in a BCS bowl, the Razorbacks would have been in another this past season when they beat Kansas State in the Cotton Bowl to finish with an 11-2 record, Arkansas’ best record since Lou Holtz coached the Hogs to an 11-1 record in 1977 and win over the Oklahoma Sooners in the Orange Bowl. Alabama and LSU playing in the championship game this past year nixed the Hogs chances at their BCS bow, but Arkansas finished with a No. 5 ranking for the year.

In Petrino’s first season with the Razorbacks in 2008, Arkansas struggled to a 5-7 year before making the Hogs winners with an 8-5 record in 2009 and beat Eastern Carolina 20-17 in the Liberty Bowl in Memphis when East Carolina’s kicker missed four field goals including a chip shot during overtime in the end zone I was shivering at. That was one of the coldest days I can remember as the wind chill got down to about 15 degrees. The Razorbacks won nonetheless.

Petrino led the Louisville Cardinals to a 41-9 overall record before hooking up with the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons in 2007. Petrino couldn’t make it through the season, though, jumping ship himself after a 3-10 showing. I suppose that should have been the writing on the wall. If the guy is going to leave his team before the season is over – there was only three games left in the season – character issues definitely come into play there.

Petrino was recently fired with cause – if it was without cause, Arkansas would have had to pay an $18 million buyout. The cause wasn’t because he had an “inappropriate relationship” with former UA volleyball player Jessica Dorrell. He admitted to that, albeit 18 minutes before the official police report came out on when he crashed his Harley into a ditch. He had originally told his boss, Arkansas Athletic Director Jeff Long, that he was alone when the crash occurred near Crosses, Ark., and the woman who called for help was just a passing motorist.

Again, the crash and inappropriate relationship was not the cause of his termination, even though Long was visibly upset – for Petrino lying to him – during the first press conference announcing the review of Petrino and his relationship.

When the news first broke of Dorrell being on the Harley with Petrino and her being a supposed mistress, I was pretty much like, “OK, who cares?” Don’t get me wrong, I definitely don’t condone his actions. It personally goes against my morals, but people’s personal lives are their lives. You can argue all day long about what kind of example he is setting for his players, but in the end, they have probably seen a lot worse than infidelity. Who am I to judge?

But as is the case with so many admired people – Tiger Woods for arguably being the best golfer ever, but getting caught up in 10 or so mistresses himself, and of course Petrino for taking the Razorbacks to great heights – they get the big heads and think they are bigger than everything else. Tiger just recently won his first tournament since that Thanksgiving day in 2009 when his wife Elin Nordegren went after him with a golf club, apparently for his infidelities. Time will tell how it affects Petrino, but he’s not Razorbacks fans’ problem anymore.

Petrino did get fired for crossing the line. His ego convinced him he was bigger than the system, than the state, and he felt obliged to make his mistress his right-hand woman. How convenient for him. He hired her to be Arkansas football’s student-athlete development coordinator out of 159 applicants. Dorrell was one of three interviewed and Petrino used his weight as Arkansas’ savior to hire her to the over-$55,000 per year job. Not too shabby, but that’s what you call a conflict of interest and that’s why he was fired. She may have been the most qualified candidate for the job, but a line was crossed and now after Petrino’s firing, Dorrell was just put on paid leave.

Petrino’s ego-mania even led to stupidity on his part, not that hiring your mistress wasn’t stupid. Petrino used his business phone – which under the Freedom of Information Act, his logs could be accessed – to text and call Dorrell. I don’t think 4,700 texts over a few months are needed for work, and now apparently another woman was involved before Dorrell. According to an article on Deadspin, Petrino exchanged 200 messages with former Miss Motorcycle Mania and Miss Bikini USA 2008, Alison Melder. Melder worked for the Arkansas GOP most recently, but there is little information other than the exchanged texts, which included picture and video.

Regardless, Jeff Long did what he had to do when he fired Petrino. Yes, Long did hire him in 2007 even after some character issues arose, but I’m convinced Petrino would still be the Razorbacks’ coach if infidelity was the only issue, but it wasn’t. Petrino abused his power and he lost out on a lot for his actions. Not only did he lose out on the $3.5 million a year he was getting from the Razorbacks, but now he has his family to answer to and I don’t see that getting any better for him.

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