Before last week, it was safe to say Bobby Petrino was a liar. That's a harsh thing to say about someone you don't know personally, but his documented lies had been so gigantic and absent of genuine contrition that "liar" was the only word that fit. Plus, Petrino's cowardly exit from Atlanta was the only thing to make DeAngelo Hall the good guy, and he did it more quickly than Hall could run 40 yards.
But Arkansas State Police Captain Lance King's statement of his interaction with Petrino from shortly after his motorcycle accident until days later says much more. It's not just that Bobby Petrino is a liar. It's that he lies until, literally, there's nothing else to do but tell the truth. When being deceitful, he tells the truth only when there is no other option. And even with a broken neck and ribs, through pain most couldn't imagine, he managed to coordinate a scheme to protect his lies that was, quite honestly, brilliant. If his offense was as focused as his bullshit, he'd be the John Wooden of football.
Here's what you need to know: shortly after his accident -- and around when he refused a passerby's offer to call 911 -- Petrino had a call put in to a doctor from Physicians Specialist Hospital, the "official health care provider" of the Arkansas Razorbacks. He hatched a plan where he could head toward the hospital as soon as possible and, on the fly, got a ride with a trusted escort. The escort was Trooper King, who was contacted by a "female caller" who was white with blonde hair after a call he made to Petrino was unanswered.
Once at the hospital, a trainer from the Arkansas athletic department was already there. And, while in the hospital getting care for a slew of injuries, made sure to ask King what information the police would need about any passengers in his accident. King, who was careful not to ask Petrino anything about his lady friend, then told Petrino it was known that he had a passenger. After Tuesday afternoon's practice, when Petrino was interviewed by the police, he walked them down the hall to speak with the passenger in question, Jessica Dorrell.
But that very morning, Arkansas issued a release saying Petrino was alone when he wrecked. After his press conference Tuesday, Petrino said "yeah" when asked if he were alone. Thursday afternoon, the police report from his accident went public. Thursday night, Petrino was on administrative leave.
Here's the question -- how in Hades could Petrino lie to the public and his bosses, knowing damn well he would tell the police the truth? Laying in a ditch, barely able to talk and believing his neck was broken, he put a layered escape plan in action, one that only involved close and trusted associates. That's up there with Jack Youngblood playing the Super Bowl with a broken leg. Yet, two days later, Petrino sets up his own dismissal with a lie he -- and only he -- knew he couldn't get away with?
The conflicting stories Petrino told that day are probably the most illuminating thing about the man. We knew he stretched the truth, but this was mind-blowing. Unless Petrino never reads the news, he had to know that police report would become public knowledge shortly after it was taken. He had to know, when saying he was alone, his lie would soon be exposed. Still, even if only for another day or two, Petrino had a little leeway to lie his way out of an uncomfortable situation with an inevitable resolution.
Either he couldn't help himself, or he's just not a quitter, but Petrino went with a lie. Never mind how little sense it made to do so or how much it would ultimately change. With the truth -- truth he told, mind you -- on the way for all to see, Petrino threw in one more whopper to make things more interesting. But this isn't like his exit from Atlanta, when he told Falcons' brass he'd stay with the team the day before he left for Fayetteville. He never had to see the people in Atlanta -- where, in fairness to Petrino, he expected to be coaching Michael Vick -- ever again. There was no cowardly back door for Petrino to run out of this time. The moment of truth was on its way, and there was nowhere for him to run. Liars are unusually concerned with self-preservation. But Petrino, who clearly has practice at this, used his tales to dig his own grave?
After reading King's report, it's hard to tell whether Petrino is sick or just doggedly determined. He doesn't seem to have a problem telling the truth ... so long as there are no other options at that very moment. He was calculating enough to know lying about having a passenger wouldn't fly with the cops, so he didn't even try it. However, he thought he could walk the cops through the halls of the Broyles Complex to meet his passenger -- and mistress -- and no one would find out? That's aimless dedication to mistruth. He did nothing but buy time ... for what? Petrino was smart enough to come up with a pretty damn intricate cover-up plan, one only foiled by a 911 call from a good Samaritan disclosing that two people were on that motorcycle. But thought he could get away with that?
He only could have thought he could get away with those final lies for just that day. And he did. He almost made it through Thursday, too. If he makes it to next season, Arkansas knows Petrino's exact M.O. -- lie until, literally, you can't lie anymore. Chances are, if it happens again, Petrino's bosses will be the last to find out the truth. And, quite possibly, none of us will understand why he made something up in the first place.