Bobby Petrino: The Lies That Will Be His Legacy
Bobby Petrino may be experiencing success with the Arkansas Razorbacks as far as wins and losses are concerned, but his aversion to telling the truth and propensity for burning bridges has left a slowly building rot that is overtaking his professional reputation.
This was recently punctuated with the revelation that he had lied about some very important details concerning his recent motorcycle accident, causing the University of Arkansas embarrassment and potentially exposing them to an ethics and/or a harassment lawsuit.
But this is far from the first time that Petrino has made his employers angry, and it probably won't be the last.
2003: Bobby Petrino's Secret Meeting with Auburn
In 2003, Bobby Petrino was in his first season as the head coach of the University of Louisville after spending 2002 as Tommy Tuberville's offensive coordinator at Auburn.
On Nov. 22, 2003 (two days before the Auburn/Alabama game), Auburn University officials held a secret meeting with Petrino about possibly replacing his old boss, Mr. Tuberville, as the Tigers head coach.
Auburn and Petrino initially denied that the meeting had ever taken place, but both parties eventually admitted that it had.
The fact that this meeting took place in secret and before the season was over angered both Tuberville and the University of Louisville's A.D., Tom Jurich, but both coaches kept their jobs for the time being.
Petrino admitted that he had made a mistake, but it would only be the first of many.
2004: Bobby Petrino Continues to Secretly Meet with Other Teams
As Petrino began to build Louisville into one of the best offensive teams in the country, he also continued his practice of secretly meeting with other teams about their head coaching positions in the middle of the season.
According to Yahoo Sports' Pat Forde, Petrino met with Florida, Mississippi, and Notre Dame officials about their head coaching positions during the 2004 season. For the Notre Dame meeting, he even used the same airport location as the meeting he had with Auburn officials from the year before.
Then five days after signing a large contract extension with Louisville, Petrino interviewed for the head coaching position at LSU (which eventually went to Les Miles).
After publicly withdrawing his name from considering from the LSU job, Petrino issued a statement proclaiming that he was fully committed to honoring his contract with the University of Louisville.
2005: Bobby Petrino Shows Faint Signs of Integrity
At the end of the 2005 season, Bobby Petrino interviewed for the head coaching position of the NFL's Oakland Raiders.
While taking an interview the year after signing a contract extension may not make Petrino look very good, he at least had the good sense to turn the Raiders down, stating that he was fully committed to the University of Louisville.
2006: Petrino Signs Another Contract Extension, Then Leaves for the NFL
During the summer of 2006, Petrino successfully negotiated a 10 year, $25.5 million contract, making him one of the highest paid coaches in college football. He even insisted on a $1 million buyout clause to "make a statement," proclaiming:
"I...wanted to make sure that everyone understood — and I know I've said it — that this is where my family wants to be and where I want to be. But I want everyone to really believe it when it is said."
Louisville A.D. Tom Jurich also stated that he fully expected Petrino to "turn his back on other jobs."
During the 2006 season, Petrino made the decision to sign him to such a lucrative deal look good. He had the Louisville Cardinals firmly in the national spotlight. They had gone 12-1 and finished the year by defeating Wake Forest in the Orange Bowl and ranked as the No. 5 team in the country.
But on Jan. 8, 2007 (just six days after the Cardinals Orange Bowl victory), Petrino signed a five-year, $24 million contract with the NFL's Atlanta Falcons to become their new head coach.
2007: Bobby Petrino Abandons the Falcons Midseason with a Note
Before Petrino even began his first season in Atlanta, he had to deal with the fallout of Michael Vick's dog fighting scandal and the star quarterback's subsequent suspension/jail sentence.
Without their offensive centerpiece, the Falcons floundered. This was compounded by Petrino's alleged inability to manage NFL players.
Things began to boil over when Petrino inexplicably cut team and fan favorite Grady Jackson, with veteran players publicly blasting Petrino for what they perceived as a lack of leadership. Unfortunately for the Falcons, the worst was yet to come.
Before a Monday night game against New Orleans, Petrino met with team owner Arthur Blank to express concern over his ability to control the team. After receiving assurances from Blank that he had his support, Petrino shook the owner's hand and said "You have a head coach."
Mere hours after a nationally televised blowout loss to the Saints, Petrino signed a five-year contract with the Arkansas Razorbacks to be their new head coach.
While anyone could understand a coach leaving a situation like the one in Atlanta, Petrino left in the middle of the season without informing the players, his assistants, or the team's ownership.
Instead, he simply left a note in the players' lockers and headed off in the middle of the night to Arkansas, where he celebrated his new position by cheering along side Razorback supporters and cheerleaders.
2012: Petrino Lies to Arkansas Officials
On April 1, 2012, reports began appearing that Bobby Petrino had been involved in a serious motorcycle accident.
The next day, the University of Arkansas issued a statement that the accident had involved "no other individuals" and that Petrino (who was not wearing a helmet) was expected to make a full recovery.
On April 5, it was reported that Petrino was in fact not alone when he crashed his motorcycle. His passenger was 25-year-old Jessica Dorrell, who had just been hired on March 28 to the football staff as a Student-Athlete Development Coordinator.
Petrino admitted to Arkansas A.D. Jeff Long that he had lied in his initial description of the accident to university officials and that he had been involved in an "inappropiate relationship" with Dorrell.
Petrino was subsequently put on paid administrative leave by the university while the situation is being investigated.
For anyone that thinks this is just a personal/private matter of character for Petrino (who is married and has four children), it is actually much bigger than that. For one thing, Petrino had the University of Arkansas issue a statement on his behalf that turned out to be false.
More importantly, however, is the fact that Petrino was involved in an illicit affair with a subordinate which may have begun before she was hired. As CBS Sports' Gregg Doyel points out, this opens up the University of Arkansas (which is a public/state school) to a major lawsuit.
What's Next for Petrino?
Make no mistake, Bobby Petrino knew exactly what he was doing when he wore his 2011 Sugar Bowl hat to the press conference about his motorcycle accident (pictured above). He wanted to remind Razorback Nation that despite his many flaws as a person, he's still a great football coach.
Arkansas' success since Petrino took over the program does in fact prove that he is a top-flight college football coach. But as CBS Sports' Dennis Dodd points out, he will have a difficult time from this point forward going into recruits' homes and convincing their mothers that he can be a mentor to their child.
There's also the matter of the University of Arkansas' integrity. Wins and bowl games can give a coach some leeway in that department, but a potential lawsuit and the national embarrassment this has caused the school may be too much.
If Arkansas keeps Petrino, they will have sent a very loud and clear message that they are not fooled by Petrino's attempts at pretending to be an upstanding and honest individual, but they are willing to overlook all of that in exchange for success on the football field.
If Arkansas fires Petrino, the unfortunate truth is that he will find work elsewhere. If multiple NCAA and NFL organizations didn't take heed of the warning signs before this incident, why would they start now?
There are 119 teams that play NCAA I-A football and 32 teams in the NFL. That gives Bobby Petrino at least 147 bridges left to burn unless owners and athletic directors realize the inevitable fallout that occurs when Petrino is the face of your football program.
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