Sunday, April 15, 2012

Arkansas Administration Proves Praise Worthy

Recently I’ve heard some sports commentators contend that the University of Arkansas is getting too much credit for its handling of the Bobby Petrino affair. Arkansas fired the ultra-successful head football coach for covering up the circumstances surrounding his motorcycle crash and hiring his mistress to work for him. His offenses were so egregious, critics say, that the administration really had no choice but to fire him. As a long-time follower of college athletics, I can tell you that nothing is further from the truth.

The history of college athletics is littered with administrators who were more than happy to look the other way to any number of transgressions as long as their coaches were winning. In fact, I have to look no further than my own favorite college team -- Petrino’s former employer, the University of Louisville, for an example.

Faced with a similar situation involving basketball coach Rick Pitino’s affair, U of L rallied behind its coach. They gave him their unwavering support, while the Cardinals’ fan base demonized Pitino’s accuser. She ended up behind bars for blackmail, while Pitino basked in glory of taking his team to the Final Four.

Some people will tell you these two situations aren’t analogous. They argue that Petrino abused university resources and Pitino did not. But it was one of Pitino’s employees who married his dalliance when things got messy.

U of L is just one example. There are plenty more. Right up the road, Indiana University put up with Bobby Knight’s boorish behavior for decades as long as he was winning. It was only when The General lost his mojo that it finally caught up with him.

That’s why Arkansas’s actions are so commendable. Petrino was winning big there, marking a run at the national championship last year. He was expected to field another good team this year. His firing sets back the program with precious little time to recover. So let’s not minimize the Arkansas administration’s actions. My only criticism is that they ever hired a guy like Petrino to begin with, especially given his past antics.

1 comment:

Umbra said...

I think more college sports programs are being held to a higher standard since recent events like Sandusky and Tressel.

I think you are on target up to a year or so ago, but University boards are slowly realizing that the liabilty and scandal aren't worth the wins.

Pitino scraped out only because his accuser was completely insane with no credibilty whatsoever,