Arkansas Head Coach Bobby Petrino sustained multiple injuries in a motorcycle accident on Sunday, April 1. The biggest injury could come in Petrino’s wallet after the police report mentioned that a 25 year old woman was riding on the motorcycle with him. Coach Petrino then admitted to an “inappropriate relationship” and begged forgiveness.
Opinions have raged all over the spectrum as to what Athletic Director Jeff Long should do to punish Petrino. Arkansas fans categorically still want him as their coach with little to no penalty. Many other people believe he should be dismissed. The reality is that Long’s decision will probably land somewhere in the middle.
Paragraph 14, Section F of Bobby Petrino’s contract reads that he may be terminated for “engaging in conduct, as solely determined by the University, which is clearly contrary to the character and responsibilities of a person occupying the position of Head Football Coach.” Paragraph 15 dictates that Arkansas can also simply discipline Petrino using that reasoning as opposed to firing him. The key clause from Paragraph 15 is “disciplinary or corrective action may include, but is not limited to,…” That clause gives the University broad disciplinary discretion.
Petrino’s contract suggests reduction of salary, and suspension without pay as potential penalties. Jeff Long should be more creative and use the empowering language in paragraph 15 of Coach Petrino’s contract to actually take away something Petrino enjoys, or force him to do something he doesn’t enjoy. Universities are bastions of higher learning. Young men and women attend them to gain an education not only in a chosen field, but in life. Arkansas has to discipline Petrino in a severe manner in order to send a clear signal that such behavior from a public face of the University will not be tolerated.
Jeff Long has a difficult decision ahead. The Razorbacks have enjoyed unparalleled success under Petrino. He is 21-5 in the past two years and led Arkansas to its first BCS bowl game. Arkansas fans will find any sort of dismissal completely unpalatable. The rest of Arkansas faculty will be closely monitoring the situation because it will set a precedent among University of Arkansas employees. Football fans will be watching the situation to see how much it adversely affects Arkansas football. No matter what course Jeff Long finally settles on, the Fayetteville fiasco will follow Bobby Petrino for years.