Bobby Petrino Fired: Maybe the SEC Isn't so Corrupt After All

Amy DaughtersFeatured ColumnistApril 11, 2012

NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 04:  Head coach Bobby Petrino of the Arkansas Razorbacks looks down in the third 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)
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Perhaps the most shocking aspect of the firing of Arkansas’ Bobby Petrino is that it happened at all.

Yes, maybe the most stunning fact from Petrino’s final days in Fayetteville had nothing to do with an inappropriate relationship, a hiring fraught with conflict of interest, $20,000 or a helmetless, once nameless passenger on the back of a motorcycle.

Aren’t we living in a world where the head football coach of a major college program who has gone 21-5 over two seasons, especially in the SEC West, is safe from losing his job over mere ethical issues?

Aren’t a first ever trip to the BCS, a Cotton Bowl victory and back-to-back No. 12 and then No. 5 finishes in the final AP poll enough to claim job security, regardless of any shenanigans?

Add in the fact that Arkansas is a legitimate preseason Top 10 team coming in 2012 and suddenly Bobby Petrino’s case for making his fifth season coming into last night’s press conference, despite the cold hard facts, looked pretty solid.

The real ringer of the events of the last 24 hours is that the drama played out amid the backdrop of the SEC, supposedly the conference that lets anything, and I mean anything go in the name of winning.

Yes, it’s not the tradition-rich and above reproach Big Ten, the cleverly clean Big 12 or even the “every once in a while” ACC or Pac-12…this is the SEC.

And if Petrino’s somewhat shocking forced departure from Arkansas is a positive reflection upon AD Jeff Long and a university that has made the bold decision to put character before wins, what does it say about the SEC as a whole?

Surely it can’t mean that the SEC is the font of ethical behavior, the home of the squeaky clean and the sanction free, but really, what does it mean when the decision was made by a team that was due to be a major player in the 2012 version of the most dominant league in college football?

Yes, the conference that has provided the sport with its last six national champions.

If nothing else Arkansas’ courageous resolution to opt out of continuing on with a coach who has proven himself dishonest and unethical, regardless of the potential negative effect on the bottom line of winning, should beg the question…is the SEC really the most corrupt conference in college football?

Let’s review the recent scandals in college football; the Jim Tressel firing which occurred in the Big Ten, the debacle at Miami (Fla.) which was an ACC production, and then moving on to the nastiest one, we’ve got Penn State’s shame which also occurred in the “above reproach” Big Ten.

Yes, there were smaller scandal label worthy activities across the country, but the big ones have happened outside of the SEC and frankly they’ve been handled differently than the Petrino affair.

It took Jeff Long fewer than nine days to oust Bobby Petrino, a number far fewer than in the cases of either Tressel or Paterno, which could both be, arguably, seen as clearer cut cases.

To drone on, what about North Carolina (ACC) and USC (Pac-12) who have both lost postseason eligibility due to scandals…are these SEC schools?

No. They are not.

Though legions of Razorback fans will no doubt be miffed with Long and the Arkansas brass for a long time to come, perhaps the Petrino firing (not the incident itself) is precisely what college football needed.

Maybe a sport burdened with month after month of “why’s” and “how could they’s” needed the swift, difficult, gut wrenching and possibly win sacrificing decision to prove that college football is not completely dictated by cold hard cash and hard earned wins.

And, going a step further, perhaps Petrino’s dismissal is a substantial hole in the national argument that the SEC is a league that is dominant only due to its inherent corruption.

If nothing else the most recent scandal in college football has implications far greater than the state lines of Arkansas, and even the conference borders of the SEC.

At the end of the day, the fact that Petrino was actually fired, combined with the recent super scandals in college football, may mean that the SEC is NOT the most crooked conference in the game.

Perhaps they are just the best league in collegiate athletics, or, the best at not getting caught...