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The Southeastern Conference (SEC) is on a roll right now. Alabama is the reigning king of college football. Same for Kentucky in men’s college basketball and South Carolina in college baseball. An SEC-alum is the reigning Super Bowl MVP and another recently won the Masters. Yet, not content to limit the SEC’s dominance to the field of play, Arkansas’ college football coach Bobby Petrino is doing his best to extend the SEC’s dominance to the gossip papers and tabloids.
For anyone not following along at home as the saga unfolds, here’s what’s generally understood as of right now: Petrino was involved in a single-vehicle motorcycle accident on April 1. Petrino was beat up pretty badly in the crash, but was able to speak with reporters soon after the crash showing obvious road rash and wearing a neck brace. What Petrino failed to mention to the reporters, and more importantly, his boss, Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long, was that he had a passenger–a twenty-five year old former Arkansas volleyball player turned football department employee following a “previous inappropriate relationship.” Petrino went well out of his way to hide this fact, directing a passer-by not to call 911 and getting a ride into town where Petrino’s female passenger was dropped off at her car. Petrino then called a state trooper that was a member of his personal security guard during the season. This might not be a problem were it not for the fact that Petrino is married with four children and the woman on the back of the motorcycle is engaged to someone else in the Arkansas athletic department with a June 9 wedding date.
Petrino’s actions could be problematic for him in several ways–but most importantly, a morality clause in Petrino’s contract that gives Arkansas the right to fire or suspend the coach for conduct that “negatively or adversely affects the reputation of the (university’s) athletics programs in any way.” Recently, Petrino’s former employer, the University of Louisville, refused to exercise a similar morality clause in the contract of its men’s basketball coach after it became public that Pitino had an affair with a lady on a table at a Louisville restaurant and later provided the money for the abortion.
Vanderbilt Law-alum Clay Travis guesses that Petrino will “survive because he wins and because [Arkansas' athletic director] wants him to survive. But I think the SEC will suspend him for at least half the season, potentially more.” In the end, Petrino should hope that his current boss shows the same leniency that his former boss showed Pitino. Perhaps the greatest thing that both coaches have on their side–winning.
Update – This post was written prior to news Tuesday night that Bobby Petrino was fired. Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long stated that the termination was “with cause” and will not receive his $18 million dollar buyout. Long also revealed a previous $20,000 payment from Petrino to his mistress. Some sources close to the Arkansas athletic department say that Arkansas/Long wanted to keep Petrino (see Travis’ comment above about Petrino winning games) but that Petrino refused the terms of the sanctions.
- R. Paul Russell
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