Bobby Petrino Fired: Should Personal Failures Have Anything to Do with Winning?
Bobby Petrino's fate at Arkansas is sealed now, folks. With the Jeff Long announcement, he is out the door as the head coach of the Razorbacks. As long stated, Petrino "engaged in manipulative and deceiving behavior" and was fired with cause by the Hogs.
A lot of people didn't see it coming. Hogs fans thought that the 21-5 record in the last two seasons would be enough to keep their prized head coach. Other fans around the nation trotted out their tired rhetoric about the SEC sweeping things under the rug.
In the end, the athletic director for the Razorbacks did what he had to do. Coming nearly to tears during the presser, Long made it clear that this was not an easy choice at which he had arrived. He didn't want to do it; Arkansas has invested millions of dollars in Petrino through the field, technology and facilities. But, this was the lever that had to be pulled for the University of Arkansas to continue moving forward.
On the micro level, this is a sad story for the Hogs faithful. On the macro level, it begs the question: Should wins come before personal failings? The answer is no. The answer is yes. In an idyllic world, it would be a simple no. No, winning games shouldn't come before the university's mission or the job of being a decent human being. These coaches are leaders of young men, molder of young minds; surely, they should be held to a higher standard.
In a money-hungry system, the answer would be a plain yes. Win games; whatever carnage is created is worth the blood we squeeze from the system.
However, these two worlds—the romanticized world of collegiate athletics and the money-grabbing world of big-time sports—overlap. Athletic directors and university presidents have an allegiance to both for the well-being of their universities. They have an idyllic image to protect, and they have money to get. That's the life of the administration on the collegiate landscape.
So, should personal failures have anything to do with winning? Absolutely they should, but not in the dreamworld view that one might think. There's an area of grey between the two worlds, and that is where most big-time programs live. To put it bluntly, those foibles don't matter until they do.
That means you can be a jerk. You can be slimy. You can talk out of both sides of your mouth. You can lie. You can cheat. You can basically do whatever you want. All as long as you stay in that grey. Staying in that grey means you stay in your lane, hovering between pastoral and getting money.
When you get out of the grey, then you're causing problems. That means NCAA violations that shine lights on what you've been doing in the grey area. That means photos surfacing of you partying with students. That means bopping around town and spending cash with a stripper in Florida. And yes, that means wrecking your motorcycle and then lying about it while joyriding with your mistress, who is also your direct subordinate.
The issue here is not one of morals. When you decide to wade into the waters of college football, you'll find that morals are stuffed in a sack and packed in the back of the closet with those acid-washed jeans you thought were a good idea. No, this is not some black-and-white, cut-and-dry space that decisions are made within. This is about shades of grey and making sure that what you do in the dark does not make its way on to the front page of the sports section.
Petrino is not the only coach sleeping around. He's the only coach who got caught sleeping around. Petrino is not the only coach sleeping with someone who has direct ties to the football program. He's the only coach who got caught sleeping with someone who has direct ties to the football program. Well, he and Mike DuBose.
So the answer to this question is not a simple one. It is no and yes. No, because as long as you're not making headlines, you're in the clear. You can operate in the grey. However, once it becomes a problem for your athletic director, for your program and for your university, then the answer is, unequivocally, yes. An emphatic yes, as Jeff Long just showed.
One thing to remember as we answer this question is we're not talking right or wrong. We're talking about the reality of the situation. Ideally, it would matter, regardless of circumstances, but that's not the world we live in.
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