NEW ORLEANS LA - JANUARY 04: Head coach Bobby Petrino of the Arkansas Razorbacks reacts in the first quarter against the Ohio State Buckeyes during the Allstate Sugar Bowl at the Louisiana Superdome on January 4 2011 in New Orleans Louisiana. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Can Arkansas fire Bobby Petrino? Oh, yes. Arkansas can fire Bobby Petrino. But should it?
We ask a routine series of questions after someone's been in an accident, whether they're SEC football coaches or neighbors. People are people, so we follow a simple script.
- Are you okay?
- How did it happen?
- Was anybody else hurt?
Regarding Arkansas Razorbacks coach Bobby Petrino, we now know most of those answers. Yes, he's okay. He has some broken bones, needs a neck brace and is missing much of the flesh from his face, but he was in good enough shape to monitor a college football program two hours after being released from the hospital.
It happened either by driving a motorcycle off a straight road or a curved road, depending on which perspective you prefer from the police report. And what was that last question?
It doesn't seem Jessica Dorrell was injured, but, yes, someone else was involved, which the university specifically denied way back on Monday. Athletic director Jeff Long didn't hear about her from Petrino until Thursday afternoon, right around the same time as the police report came out. He already knew of her, of course, seeing as Petrino had hired her as a recruiting assistant just a week earlier.
All of which leads us to another question. Can Arkansas fire Bobby Petrino for covering up his apparent relationship with a subordinate? As in, fire him without paying his enormous buyout?
The answer seems to be yes, if so inclined.
Petrino's contract does include standard clauses allowing the school to fire him for outlandish conduct. They wouldn't have to pay his buyout if he, you know, shot somebody, or whatever. And by any definition, having an admitted "inappropriate relationship" with an employee -- let alone an employee he hired -- is outlandish.
Arkansas' staff handbook describes quid pro quo sexual harassment in this way:
Quid pro quo harassment involves an explicit or implied exchange; that is, the granting or denial of a benefit or privilege in exchange for sexual considerations. The harasser uses submission to or rejection of the offensive conduct as the basis for decisions such as employment, promotion, transfer, selection for training, performance evaluation, or the basis for academic evaluation or recommendations.
Was Dorrell hired based on her relationship with Petrino? She was hired the same day the position was posted, for one thing, and the two were reportedly photographed together back in February.
But Petrino wasn't harassing Dorrell? We have no reason to believe he was treating her in a way she didn't want to be treated, if that's what we're talking about, but we're not. A more relevant point is that he excluded all persons with whom he was not having an "inappropriate relationship" from having a chance to land this job. It's, by any definition published since, like, the Suffrage movement, an abuse of power. Even for a SEC football coach.
"But Rick Pitino did it, and look at him now. The future is nothing but Sugar Bowls."
Rick Pitino also didn't hire his mistress to a job paid for by state funds.
"But lots of other coaches do this. Athletic departments employ hordes of pretty young women, and I have many suspicions and implications about all this."
And they've all learned a lesson this week from Bobby Petrino about how to organize such things.
"But Mike Dubose did it, and he kept his job. The future is still nothing but Sugar Bowls."
Alabama coach Mike Dubose did indeed do pretty much the same thing, and he wasn't as good at his job as Petrino is. But he also didn't have an obvious history of doing things that fit this profile.
The question is not whether Arkansas can fire Bobby Petrino, but whether he should be fired. As SI.com's Andy Staples writes, Long's been given plenty of reasons to fire Petrino over the past week. But over the past two years, he's been given plenty of reasons to keep him around forever. Which matters more?
Arkansas football doesn't mean the same thing as Alabama football, or even Auburn or LSU football. It's never achieved the same national success and in fact never won a SEC title. To many Arkansas fans, Petrino is the man to change all that. The Razorbacks program, for the first time ever, looks to be a consistent national contender, and firing him would mean doing away with all that.
To which I say: Gus Malzahn's offense is sooooo fun to watch when he gets it going.
But Bobby Petrino has demonstrated by now that he has a particular character trait. Pat Forde chronicles this trait better than I can. Not only are his major life choices centered entirely around his own wants, he also fails to stand up to the consequences.
(Yes, I should acknowledge here that I'm an Atlanta Falcons fan. No human has ever been objective about anything, but I hope you'll believe me when I say that I'm trying really hard to do so. But here goes.)
I don't see how Long can trust Petrino again, especially considering how Petrino came to the school in the first place. There's a reason Petrino's contract is uniquely structured to erase any possible doubt of another team coming in and taking him. It's like that guy who cheats on his spouse, then ends up in a relationship with his thing on the side. How can his new squeeze ever believe he won't do the same thing all over again?
In this case, obviously Petrino didn't cheat on Arkansas with another school. The fact that he cheated on his wife is almost completely irrelevant to the average coach's job description.
This decision comes down to three things. Do powerful Arkansas people care more about what Petrino did wrong or what he's done for the program? And can Petrino still recruit? The former might come down #TEAMFOOTBALL, and any SEC program can bring in talent, but the latter is hardest to answer.
Yep, Rick Pitino has been able to recruit despite his incident. And many a coach has left a series of jobs in hasty circumstances, then recruited just fine at his next stop. But how many coaches have had both stains on their reputation and still made it out clean enough to win over Southern mothers and fathers?
And as far as the legal stuff goes ... let's just say that if Petrino's able to keep his job, he'll have convinced Jeff Long he's capable of doing something completely amazing.
While we're here, let's watch some college football videos from SB Nation's new YouTube channel together: