Responsibility to Represent

6 Apr

This morning I watched a six-minute discussion between ESPN analysts about the recent debacle of Bobby Petrino. To summarize the situation, Petrino crashed his motorcycle last weekend, and when he spoke to reporters, he said he was alone on the bike. The police report made clear Petrino lied about that; a 25-year-old female colleague with whom he had an “inappropriate relationship” was a passenger on the bike at the time of the crash.

51-year-old Petrino has a wife – Becky – and four children. His daughter Katie is a redshirt freshman on the Louisville golf team. His older daughter Kelsey graduated from Louisville in 2009. His sons Nick and Bobby Jr. attend the University of Arkansas.

Not only is Petrino’s behavior a huge embarrassment to his wife and children, it is a blight on the school he works for as well.

Petrino had a history of dishonesty before he ever came to Arkansas. Now it turns out that he is cheating on his wife – with a woman 26 years his junior whom he hired onto his staff – and lying to not only his family but also his boss.

Now the University of Arkansas has a decision to make: retain the coach who led the Razorbacks to an 10-2 regular season record and a Cotton Bowl win over Kansas State, or fire him for violating the “conduct clause” in his contract.

There is no doubt in my mind Petrino should be fired. I am not so naive as to think that college sports truly are about the student-athletes. College sports revolve around money. So here are a few economic questions to ponder:

1) Will donors be more or less likely to pour money into a program led by a known cheater and liar?

2) Will the best players be more or less likely to come to a program led by a man who has done nothing but skip out on his players and staff at every team he has coached?

3) Will the parents of potential players be more or less likely to encourage their kids to attend a college where the leader of the football program might be one of the worst examples ever?

4) Will the University of Arkansas be more or less likely to attract the best assistant coaches when the leader of its program is, euphemistically put, less than forthcoming about his intentions?

5) Will sponsors like Nike be more or less likely to affiliate themselves with a program whose figurehead makes news for cheating on his wife and lying to his superiors?

The head coach of a big-time sports program reflects the priorities and values of the university. If the Razorbacks do not send Petrino on his way, it shows football is more important to them than integrity. That image is a rather ugly one.

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One Response to “Responsibility to Represent”

  1. Herbie April 6, 2012 at 11:22 pm #

    “The head coach of a big-time sports program reflects the priorities and values of the university. If the Razorbacks do not send Petrino on his way, it shows football is more important to them than integrity. That image is a rather ugly one.”

    There’s a certain school in Happy Valley that knows all about that. An athletic program should never, ever be larger than the institution.

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