Either you were really surprised or knew this was going to happen. With an issue this polarizing, there’s no middle ground. Instead there were two groups, the ones who believe winning football games comes at any cost, even if it means loosing all dignity. The others camp believes that with great power and prestige, comes additional responsibility.
Let’s face it if you or I had an affair on our spouses the worst that would happened is a possible divorce (not trying to under sale divorce, stay with me). I can’t remember if the Walton family (founded Wal-Mart) or Bill Clinton still live in Arkansas, but if they did Petrino would be the third most influential man in the state, and higher if those have moved out. Following his 2010 loss to Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl, Petrino “earned” a seven year contract extension worth around 3.5 million dollars a year. I used quotations around earned to emphases the amount of money he makes to coach a game. But it is a sport that millions of Hog fans love to follow and love to watch win. When you have that much power, any sign of moral incompetence needs to be rewarded by termination to prove that the institution values integrity.
Petrino was just out there looking for a piece of strange (not a crime), but it was the cover up that ruined it for him. Once the university learned that he had used 20,000 of the University dollars to “pay for play” Athletic Director, Jeff Long, had no choice but to either let him go or look like the biggest patsy since Ohio State’s Gordon Gee hid behind the shadows of the Horseshoe instead of showing Jim Tressel the door. (eventually Tressel resigned after the NCAA was about to throw the books at Ohio State)
A lot of respect needs to go towards Jeff Long for the swiftness of his decision following the reports on Petrino’s cover up. For a brief moment Long showed college football fans that it possible to see through all the corruption and illegal activities that has crippled the image of college football since its inception. Long knew that he had a national championship level contender heading into next year and decided to show not only the Arkansas university and football team, but the entire sports landscape that one man is not above the organization. The decision, for a brief moment, puts a halo around Long’s head, but how long will that last until the university ask why there is a halo atop his head and not dollar signs.
The fact is Arkansas football with out an elite coach like Petrino (it kills me to say this, but the guy beat LSU with Casey Dick at quarterback so it is deserving), the Hogs will fall back to a middle of the road football team. When the program drops off, and it will, the loss of millions of dollars in revenue will make it difficult for Long to keep his job . Thus bringing us back to what made this such a decision for Long to make. Universities have taken a sport that originally was used as a form of advertisements for the school and created and semi-pro sporting environment. Even though Bobby Petrino made decisions that would make Tiger Woods and Bill Clinton blush, it was a decision that was clearly difficult for Long to make, but wasn’t it the right one?