Tomorrow — or, if you’re reading this Sunday morning, today — marks one week since Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino was in a motorcycle accident with UA football employee Jessica Dorrell. And for the past few days since a police report exposed what points to being an affair with Dorrell, there have been numerous calls for Petrino’s resignation/firing.
Some think Petrino didn’t uphold a moral or ethical standard that’s expected of him, but the consensus is that the more significant crime is the cover up that spilled over to the workplace. Petrino lied to his boss, athletic director Jeff Long (pictured), by withholding information about Dorrell and put UA in an HR bind by possibly committing a quid pro quo with Dorrell, who was hired to her current job on March 28.
That sounds like beyond reasonable grounds for termination to me, but admittedly, I’m sitting behind a computer screen in Texas. If the decision to fire Petrino was that easy, it would have been done by now.
Long said Thursday night when he placed Petrino on paid administrative leave that he would go through a deliberate review of the situation before making a conclusion. On Saturday, a UA spokesperson released a statement from Long, which states the following:
“The [Petrino] review is ongoing and will continue throughout the weekend.”
So, what’s Long thinking about? Take a look at an article by Chris Bahn of ArkansasSports360 (Here’s a link). It might be the most spot-on glance to date into what Long is considering as he deliberates whether he should can Petrino or not.
This goes beyond the $3.56 million Arkansas has invested in Petrino annually until 2017. That’s pocket change compared to the other financials that have to be considered.
Even without actually winning a BCS bowl, the SEC or the SEC West, Petrino has managed to increase fan buy-in, something that has helped the Razorback football program see a 59-percent increase in value since 2009. Forbes estimated last year that Arkansas football is valued at $89 million.
Don’t forget the substantial investment Long and Arkansas have in Petrino’s football operations center. Shortly after being hired Petrino began asking for a new facility, one that began with a $20 million estimate, but has now grown to $40 million (and climbing).
Construction has begun on the 80,000-square foot facility. Fundraising is ongoing.
Keep this in mind: just because money is pledged for the facility doesn’t mean the UA has the cash in hand. Bonds were purchased so construction could begin, but the debt for the building isn’t totally covered.
Petrino’s value to the program is more than just 8.5 wins per year in the toughest division in college football. It’s the wealth of everything that goes along with those wins.
But does that give Petrino freedom to do what he wants?
As a boss, it has to be a disheartening feeling to know your employee lied/withheld important information from you — yes, it was important; see Arkansas’ release on Monday — and was perfectly content doing so. It has to be equally frustrating to think Petrino would hire someone he was possibly fooling around with.
That’s a lot of dishonesty at one time. If Long could get rid of Petrino and not lose a beat in fundraising efforts while being simultaneously guaranteed a capable replacement to lead the Hogs into the future, there’s no doubt he would.
It’s not that simple.
Long is facing a business decision, and while Petrino’s actions have more than merited a firing, doing so without considering the cost of the alternative would be an emotional decision. Last time someone at UA made an emotional decision, he and his 25-year-old subordinate got in a motorcycle accident.
So what Long has to weigh is the worth of success vs. the worth of trust. I don’t know the answer, but I sure as hell know I do not envy Long for being forced to figure it out.