There is an old saying that a cover-up can be worse than any actual ‘crime’.
Such is the case with University of Arkansas head football coach Bobby Petrino, who was placed on paid administrative leave Thursday.
Last weekend Petrino suffered injuries after laying down his Hog (literally) in a rural area in the Ozarks. It was said initially that Petrino was riding the bike alone – but Thursday’s disclosure had him being with a 25-year old named Jessica Dorrell. She is a former volleyball player for the university who is now an employee of the athletic department who just last week was named the ‘student-athlete development coordinator’ for the football program.
So it sounds like Bobby Petrino’s weekend possibly included Bikes, Blues, B-B-Q…and a blonde backrest. The good news was booze was not on the list, and that Petrino’s injuries were not worse considering he was reportedly not wearing a helmet.
You can see the reasons for the cover-up on a personal level. Petrino, 51, is married with four kids. Ms. Dorrell meanwhile, is engaged to another athletic department employee named Josh Morgan and scheduled to be married on June 9 (a mere nine weeks from now), although one site regarding the wedding is now ominously blank.
In announcing the leave of absence – the Athletic Director released a statement said to be from Petrino, in which he admits to an ‘inappropriate relationship’ and apologized to his wife, administration, school, and the entire state.
So we have a very public middle-aged figure in the state of Arkansas who is married but hanging out with a younger lady. Haven’t we heard this script before??
But can Bobby Petrino get off like Mr. Clinton did?
Had Arkansas football been coming off an 8-5 season, or a pair of 8-5/7-6 type seasons, then the university very well would look for a way out from under that enormous contract Petrino signed following the 2007 season – after he bailed on the Atlanta Falcons, which got him called a ‘gutless bastard‘ by one colleague. If Petrino had some sort of bonus upcoming, then the timing wouldn’t be good for him either.
Mike Leach’s situation from a couple years ago is a good example. Texas Tech had fallen somewhat from the previous season, and Leach had a bonus due if he was on the payroll as of January 1, 2010. A situation came up, and the administration decided that they could stomach the football program being just so-so while saving some money, so they found a way to axe a successful but somewhat controversial coach to begin with.
There will be some level of punishment, as Petrino’s contract stipulates being subject to discipline for ‘engaging in conduct, clearly contrary to the character and responsibilities of a person occupying the position of Head Football Coach or which negatively or adversely affects the reputation of the University or the athletic programs in any way.’
Publicly, the university will announce that they do not condone Petrino’s actions, with the ultimate punishment ranging anywhere from a reprimand and perhaps the loss of a few perks and a wrist slap to go along with the neck brace; or the backlash (not to get confused with Petrino’s whiplash), along with his spotty cred to begin with, could indeed cost him his job.
My guess is that by the time football camp starts, everyone moves on, Petrino will still be coaching the team, and Ms. Dorrell will be reassigned elsewhere with the University.
If Petrino is that fortunate, then he just needs to keep winning, and then take a cue from Mike Holmgren and ride solo.