In a 10:45 p.m. ET press conference, Arkansas announced that the head football coach would be placed on an indefinite administrative leave. At first glance, it seems to evoke a feeling of relief among the Razorbacks' fanbase and their SEC title hopes that their coach is still with the program. However, in this day and age, we know that this is merely the beginning. The beginning of a long, slippery slope for the Hogs and Bobby Petrino.
As we said late Thursday, prior to the presser, this is going to get uglier before it gets better, and the information that was revealed has proved just that. Bobby Petrino was not present at the press conference, electing instead to issue a statement to the media. The most interesting portion of the statement came in the first of two paragraphs:
In my press conference, I referred to her simply as 'a lady.' My concern was to protect my family and a previous inappropriate relationship from becoming public.
Petrino proceeded to apologize to his wife, his children, the athletic director, the chancellor, the Board of Trustees, the administration, his coaching staff, his players and the entire State of Arkansas. A lot of apologizing for a guy who made a conscious decision to hide the easily accessible details from his employer and the public. This situation is about to get really ugly, and no apology is going to put a Band-Aid on what may ultimately result in the Hogs being forced to fire their head coach.
You see, people don't like Bobby Petrino. They hate the way he left Atlanta when he took the Arkansas job. He's widely regarded as a liar and, in many circles, a coward. Well, now the folks have caught him in a lie and this is more than just about being a decent human being. The vaguely referenced "inappropriate relationship" will be dug into. Petrino's dealings with the female staffer that he hired just a few days ago shall be sifted through in ways that are most uncomfortable to the coach.
The media is going to figure out if Petrino was involved with a student. Or, if Petrino was conducting a relationship with a subordinate. This is chum in the water for the sharks, and they have a knack for getting to the root of the problem. Arkansas, according to athletic director Jeff Long, is going to conduct its own review of the situation. The Razorbacks' people better be thorough because what they don't find, the media will.
As things heat up, we'll see just how much Arkansas can take. How much of the media circus and rumors is Bobby Petrino, a coach who lied to his boss, really worth? Twenty-one wins in the last two seasons are great, but backing a guy that will flat out skate over crucial details to make himself look better—even to his direct superior—is not an easy thing to do.
Before this happened, Petrino was slimy. Slimy is something wins can get you past. Now, he's a liar, a flat out liar. A liar who has more of a story than he's wanting to reveal. A liar with a story that is going to be unearthed over the next few days and weeks.
And while we're talking about what happens next, we might as well look at Petrino's contract. Sure, there are gaudy buyout numbers built into it, but when this dust settles, none of that will likely matter. That's because of section 14-f, which states Petrino can be terminated with cause for:
Otherwise engaging in conduct, as solely determined by the University, which is 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 UAF's athletics programs in any way.
Call me crazy, but I think an "inappropriate relationship" is a start to running afoul of that tenet. Plus, the dragging through the mud of Hogs athletics that will ensue during the investigation is a healthy helper to the "with cause" ideal.
Arkansas fans, buckle up because this is not going to be fun, and it will not be over quickly. In the end, when the dust settles, we'll find out exactly how much winning means to the Hogs, and if they're willing to back a coach that their administration cannot even trust.