As I listened to Arkansas AD Jeff Long announce the firing of head football coach Bobby Petrino last night, I was struck by two previously unknown facts about the hiring of Jessica Dorrell to Petrino’s staff:
- She beat out 159 other candidates for her position on Petrino’s staff
- Petrino paid Dorrell $20,000 for…er, something.
When I heard those two things I thought myself a fool for believing Petrino ever had a chance to retain his job. Even if the “Save Bobby Petrino” rally had attracted a half million people, there was no way Petrino was going to be the head coach at Arkansas in 2012.
But as I alternated between the press conference and the reaction on Twitter, an interesting narrative began to build around Jeff Long.
“Give him credit for doing what had to be done.”
“Making the most of an impossible situation.”
“He’s a good man and doesn’t deserve to have to deal with this.”
“Long is showing extraordinary leadership.”
“Proud of Arkansas, Jeff Long, and proud to be an SEC fan.”
Ahem, can we hold off for just a minute here? I have a couple of things to point out.
First, JEFF LONG HAD NO CHOICE BUT TO FIRE BOBBY PETRINO. I can honestly say I know next to nothing about Mr. Long as an AD or a person, but let’s not give the man too much credit for electing to move forward with the only sensible option he had. Had he tried to keep Petrino and the media found out about the preferential treatment and the $20K (why are people not making a bigger deal out of this?) then Long would’ve lost his job as well. So he was not only doing the right thing, he was also covering his own backside from career suicide.
Second, as a lifelong Falcons fan (take a moment to feel sorry for me), my only other memory of Mr. Long is of him standing at a podium “calling the Hogs” with Petrino while Atlanta twisted in the wind with regular season games still left to play.
If character was a priority, Arkansas never would have hired Petrino to begin with. Everybody knew his resume. In fact, Long would be out of a job himself. He interviewed Petrino without the Falcons’ permission four years ago while the coach was under contract to Atlanta and still in the middle of a season. This wasn’t up to Long any more than it was up to the blithering protesting fans who were screaming, “Woo Pig Sooie!” at rally for Petrino Monday. It was up to his bosses, the smart people, who realized this could cost the university millions.
In the end, the right thing was done, and the University of Arkansas will be better off for it.
But let’s not make Jeff Long out to be the hero. He was only the messenger.