Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

10 Apr 2012

Arkansas Fires Bobby Petrino

In some ways, the Petrino scandal is similar to the Saints bounty scandal in the NFL. The problem isn't just that Petrino apparently hired his mistress at Arkansas and isn't the world's safest driver of motorcycles. The problem is that he repeatedly lied to the Arkansas higher-ups about his mistress, hiring his mistress, and the mistress' presence at the motorcycle accident. He also tried to avoid disclosing the name of the mistress on the accident report filed with police. The cover-up almost always ends up hurting these guys more than the original crime. I've always hated Petrino for what he did to the Falcons, so I'm not really crying for the guy. I don't think many people are. Arkansas AD Jeff Long is crying, but probably not for Petrino. He's probably choked up because he's angry at himself for being duped by this jackass.

Posted by: Aaron Schatz on 10 Apr 2012

74 comments, Last at 16 Apr 2012, 12:10pm by BaronFoobarstein


by tuluse :: Tue, 04/10/2012 - 9:46pm

"The cover-up almost always ends up hurting these guys more than the original crime."

This is true when they get caught, but we don't know how often they get away with things because of successful coverups.

by DEW (not verified) :: Tue, 04/10/2012 - 10:13pm

Cover-ups are the boom-or-bust back of wrongdoing?

by CraigoMc (not verified) :: Tue, 04/10/2012 - 10:17pm

Interesting point.

Assume that 100% of non-cover-up mistakes are caught, and that 100% of cover-ups result in termination. x = the chance that the original mistake itself will result in termination, and y = the likelihood that the cover-up will fail. Presumably, the offender has a rough idea of what x is: If he thinks that getting fired is a toss-up or worse, then there's really no reason not to engage in a cover-up (assuming that the existence of a cover-up does not increase the punishment).

In Petrino's case, I'd guess that hiring your mistress carries a likelihood of termination greater than 50%. So trying to hide it was probably a rational strategy.

by zambini (not verified) :: Fri, 04/13/2012 - 10:01am

X = moron
Petrino = X
it really is quite simple when yopu explain it mathematicly.

by C Vekert (not verified) :: Sun, 04/15/2012 - 9:17pm

Close but not quite mathematically correct. x=sleazebag, not moron.

by BaronFoobarstein :: Sun, 04/15/2012 - 11:44pm

I'm not sure what relation '=' is in this context. I want to say set inclusion, but that's not an equivalence relation. We need a math teacher who's also a football writer.

by Mr Shush :: Mon, 04/16/2012 - 8:17am

I'm not a mathematician, but logically speaking I believe the way to express this would be:

F(x) - x is a moron
G(x) - x is a sleazebag
a - Petrino

F(a) ∧ G(a)

by BaronFoobarstein :: Mon, 04/16/2012 - 12:10pm


by DoubleB4 (not verified) :: Tue, 04/10/2012 - 10:48pm

Knowing what we know now, I'd argue the cover-up was the only chance Petrino had to SAVE his job. He got in a motorcycle accident with his mistress on board (how was she not hurt by the way?), a woman who he had just hired to a position at the university over 158 other applicants, and who he apparently paid 20 grand to as well. And I'm not sure there might not be more damning information coming down the pike.

He wasn't keeping his job with the truth.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Tue, 04/10/2012 - 11:49pm

Petrino made $3.5M from Arkansas alone, before any outside promotional deals. He got fired for covering up a $20k ($0.02M) hiring.

Forget morality, he should be fired for stupidity.

by sundown (not verified) :: Wed, 04/11/2012 - 10:28am

He was so dumb in this thing, he might not be all there mentally. Having an affair with somebody who's engaged to another coach at the university...and he hires her to work directly for him...and he gives her $20 grand. Who in his right mind thinks that is going to end well or quietly? The motorcycle incident only sped things along because this was destined to blow up shortly, any way.

by Floyd (not verified) :: Wed, 04/11/2012 - 10:43am

I think it's pretty clear that it wasn't the brain between Petrino's ears doing the thinking, it was the brain between his legs.

by sundown (not verified) :: Wed, 04/11/2012 - 10:50am

No doubt, but I doubt this was his first time getting some on the side. In a public position like that, you've got to be a little smarter than that. Even if he thought his wife and Dorrell would never make a public stink, how could he have been sure about the fiance? He really thought he could get away with anything.

by RickD :: Wed, 04/11/2012 - 10:52am

Who's to say that coaches like this don't get away with stuff like this fairly often?

I'd wager a head coach at a big football program has gotten away with a lot along the way.

The Watergate break-in wasn't Nixon's first dirty trick, nor was Monica Lewinsky the first girl that Clinton fooled around with.

by Will Allen :: Wed, 04/11/2012 - 11:19am

Agreed, but I'd say the chance of successful concealment starts to shrink hugely once police departments and insurance companies get involved. Not impossible, mind you, but the ability to control the narrrative starts to become significantly reduced.

by sundown (not verified) :: Wed, 04/11/2012 - 1:25pm

What's crazy is he doesn't seem to have been very concerned about concealment, at least prior to the wreck. He left a money trail with a $20,000 gift that would be impossible to explain (what was he going to say, it was a wedding gift given months in advance?), he takes her on a motorcycle ride when it's still light outside and people can recognize him because he doesn't have a helmet on, and her fiance works in the athletic department where he can hear every campus rumor.

by Will Allen :: Wed, 04/11/2012 - 2:44pm

Yeah, it is stuff like that which almost suggests that Petrino is the sort of head case who, once everything is stripped away, really wants to self-destruct, due to an innate self-loathing. Either that, or he is purely a sociopath, who not only is incapable of feeling shame, but cannot even conceive of how others may view his behavior as shameful.

I'm leaning towards the latter theory.

by Whatev :: Wed, 04/11/2012 - 5:40pm

The former theory really seems too charitable, doesn't it?

by Anonymous93019300 (not verified) :: Wed, 04/11/2012 - 6:07pm

I agree with RickD. His ego just got the best of him. Married people have affairs all the time without getting caught. So do engaged people. And if you're going to pay someone off, cash is the only way to go. (I don't know how the Arkansas investigative party got both people to admit to the payment...that's why you pay someone in cash...plausible deniability)

Really, he engaged in risky behavior and it came back to bite him once the police got involved. Everyone's gotta take a risk sometime.

Kinda makes me long for the days when you could do things discreetly. Without cell phones, I doubt random people on the roadway call 911 on his behalf. And I bet he manages to skate away without a police report being filed. And he'd still have a job.

by markus (not verified) :: Wed, 04/11/2012 - 10:29pm

I just saw an article on how they traded thousands of text messages with his university phone, so possibly they have them discussing the payment. Dude was texting her sometimes 80 times even on game days and phoning her at 5 a.m. Not a one-time hook-up for sure.

by sundown (not verified) :: Thu, 04/12/2012 - 12:42pm

The frequency of their contacts was pretty surprising. I have a hard time believing her fiance hadn't caught on. Pretty hard to trade 80 texts a day with somebody without the people around you wondering what's going on. And Petrino had a habit of phoning her in the early a.m. on game days. The fiance and her were never together predawn on Saturday mornings?

by Thomass (not verified) :: Thu, 04/12/2012 - 10:46am

It'd have been way easier for Petrino to create a separate bank account his wife didn't know about and just write the girl a check. 20 thousand in cash doesn't come about all that easy. I had to pay 10 grand cash for a boat from some old kook a couple years back and that required giving notice to my bank and waiting a couple days for them to have the money on hand.

by tuluse :: Wed, 04/11/2012 - 6:02pm

He could understand that people would see his behavior is shameful but simply not care or think that he's so important he's not bound by the mores of our culture.

Which still doesn't say good things about him.

by Anonymous93019300 (not verified) :: Wed, 04/11/2012 - 6:33pm

I disagree. If he didn't care about what you think or thought that he was bound by societal norms, he would've openly flaunted his affair. The fact that he didn't shows that he cares very much about how you perceive him.

by zambini (not verified) :: Fri, 04/13/2012 - 9:53am


but it's no coinbcidence that these men of low morales find lying so instinctively easy and there first response.
"did you cut down that tree?
"yes' said george with the ax in his hand and woodchips on his clothing.
"i cannot tell a lie 9because i would look like a moron if i tried to deny it)
petrino made me think he was scum, the way he bailed on the falcons, this just confirms it !

by speedegg :: Tue, 04/10/2012 - 9:53pm

There are soooo many jokes I could make, but I'd rather not desecrate this site.

And does anyone have a link to Jeff Long presser?

by Dales :: Tue, 04/10/2012 - 9:58pm

So strange seeing this all played out. My daughter has been in Petrino's house. I have seen his wife occasionally at the grocery store. I know the stretch of road he wiped out on (and, in one thing that isn't being made a big deal of-- he says he lost control on a turn, but the police report shows that he wiped out on a straight roadway).

He had to go. The second it came out that he had hired her, then unless sexual harassment standards mean nothing once it came out the die was cast.

Heck of a coach.

Think about all of his staff that will likely be out of jobs now. Think of the guy that was about to marry that girl.

Too much is never enough, I guess. How selfish. How freaking stupid.

by Jay Z (not verified) :: Tue, 04/10/2012 - 10:13pm

Can you hire a whole staff at this time of year? Even if they do, the hirees are going to come from other schools, which opens up other jobs, etc. etc. etc. Only if Arkansas winds up dropping football will the coaching profession take a hit.

by Independent George :: Tue, 04/10/2012 - 11:33pm

The second it came out that he had hired her, then unless sexual harassment standards mean nothing once it came out the die was cast.

Is that sexual harassment, though? There's no quid pro quo if the relationship predated the hiring, and there's clearly no threat or hostile environment. I notice the language about "unfair hiring practices", but given the rampant nepotisim in the NCAA, is that really a fireable offense?

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Tue, 04/10/2012 - 11:48pm

Yeah, it's true most athletic departments make a mockery of hiring standards, but most of them are usually somewhat justifiable, and there probably is a requirement that a preexisting relationship (son/uncle/cousin/daughter/etc.) has to be disclosed to HR, which he obviously didn't do.

Again, it's primarily a "you lied to your bosses" problem. That always gets you fired.

by Dales :: Wed, 04/11/2012 - 7:30am

"Is that sexual harassment, though"

Unfortunately, as part of my last two jobs, I have had to have "Sexual Harassment Training". Most bigger companies make most of their salaried professionals do so, or at least the managers. It clearly would have fallen within the policies.

He had a mistress, gave her $20k, and then hired her while continuing the relationship. Sex for money and career advancement is definitely a quid pro quo. Further, the policies are not just about protecting the parties directly involved (although it is partly that; she could still sue and claim that she felt compelled and pressured into the relationship). The policies are not just about preventing the abuse of organization funds (although it is partly that; companies and or government institutions frown upon giving financial rewards in exchange for favors). The policies are also about protecting others in and around the organization. Was it fair to the 150 other applicants to the job to be passed over, likely with no chance of getting the job, because she demonstrated a willingness to ride coach? Would other female workers at the University feel that, in order to advance their careers, they would have to capitulate if asked? Or would they feel that they would have to proactively compete with their bodies?

Two consenting adults can create a hostile work environment for others. Clearly, this was an offense worthy of dismissal, before even getting into the lying to the AD.

Granted, even when those policies are in place, it does not mean they are always followed. At a company at which I used to work (since out of business), a VP basically offered a lady a promotion in exchange for a hummer, and she went to HR. They transferred her from his part of the organization, and brought in a consultant to do some of the aforementioned sexual harassment training. Per HR's decree, it was mandatory for everyone in the company below the VP level. Yes, that means she had to attend the training, and he didn't. Insane world.

by sundown (not verified) :: Wed, 04/11/2012 - 10:33am

No, it's not sexual harassment. Arkansas specifically mentioned that in their statements. The affair was a violation of the university's conflict of interest policies because she had an undisclosed advantage in landing that job.

by sundown (not verified) :: Wed, 04/11/2012 - 10:46am

One particular staff member who must KNOW he's toast now is younger brother Paul Petrino. Sometimes the last name helps you...sometimes it really hurts you.

by Kurt :: Wed, 04/11/2012 - 12:11pm

This was extremely good fortune for the guy who was about to marry the woman. Better to find out now, and all that.

by sundown (not verified) :: Wed, 04/11/2012 - 12:48pm

I really pity that guy. It'd be tough regardless but to have it be public knowledge, plus he works in the athletic dept. so he'll be hearing things from all sides. And not only was she unfaithful, but she got a job and $20K cash out of it...it's like finding out your fiance was a hooker.

by TomKelso :: Wed, 04/11/2012 - 3:17pm

LIKE finding out she was a hooker? To revive the old joke, we know what she is, we simply are now establishing the price...

by TomKelso :: Wed, 04/11/2012 - 3:14pm

Apparently, Arkansas has asked all the staff -- according to afternoon's Scott Van Pelt show on ESPN -- to stay on, INCLUDING Petrino's brother. Consider that testimony to the replacement costs, I suppose.

I will wager the Fayetteville Kinko's/FedEx resume service does land-sale business this season, though.

by Will Allen :: Wed, 04/11/2012 - 3:26pm

There really isn't all that much difference between trying to find a new head coach and staff on April 11th, and doing so September 1st. Spring ball is essentially over, and the players can't practice again until a few weeks before the first game. You really can't install a new coaching staff until next December or January.

by jds (not verified) :: Wed, 04/11/2012 - 10:03pm

"Apparently, Arkansas has asked all the staff -- according to afternoon's Scott Van Pelt show on ESPN -- to stay on"

surely, not ALL the staff....

by Peregrine :: Tue, 04/10/2012 - 11:38pm


- every fan of the Atlanta Falcons

by johnnyxel :: Wed, 04/11/2012 - 12:48am

And it hasn't involved a single physical injury to an opponent. The best kind of Schadenfreude is the kind that doesn't come with guilt.

by BaronFoobarstein :: Wed, 04/11/2012 - 2:21am

All of the freude, none of the scham.

by Felton (not verified) :: Thu, 04/12/2012 - 1:23pm

From a Saints fan, this one has me laughing!

by Arkansas Expatriot (not verified) :: Sun, 04/15/2012 - 10:55pm

From an Arkansas fan, this had me laughing as well!

by G_Man1 (not verified) :: Tue, 04/10/2012 - 11:45pm

I just quickly read the article and perhaps my reading comprehension skills are lacking, but can anyone outline all the reason for Petrino getting fired? As far as I can, the two items below are the only infractions he has committed.

(1) Hired his mistress for a job when he didn't disclose his personal relationship with her beforehand.
(2) Did not initially disclose the fact his mistress was with him during the accident to the AD.

You can also add the fact that he indeed has a mistress, but if this is everything he did, am I alone in thinking firing him is an extreme measure to take? Suspend him without pay for sure, but a firing seems quite extreme.

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Tue, 04/10/2012 - 11:52pm

Really?? (1) seems like a gross abuse of authority. I would've been amazed if they hadn't fired him for that. I mean, jeez, it's basically using University money to pay for sex. It doesn't get much worse than that.

by tuluse :: Wed, 04/11/2012 - 12:07am

There is also 3) he repeatedly lied to the Arkansas higher-ups about his mistress, hiring his mistress, and the mistress' presence at the motorcycle accident

by BigWoody (not verified) :: Wed, 04/11/2012 - 12:23am

And Arkansas is in th3e bible belt.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Wed, 04/11/2012 - 8:46am

Genesis 38:9-10?

by G_Man1 (not verified) :: Wed, 04/11/2012 - 12:49am

Oh, it's a gross abuse of authority alright. No question about that. Maybe I'm wrong, but I don't necessarily read it as he hired her in exchange for sex. As the article states, he had maintained this relationship for a significant amount of time, and it was proven he already given her at least one "gift" of $20,000. Could Petrino no longer afford to keep giving her gifts so instead he had to give her a job? Or was she blackmailing him into giving her a job? Maybe I'm being naive, but I just saw this as a traditional affair (which is still wrong and worthy of reprimand) and not him directly paying for sex. If he was just paying for sex, it seems strange that he would extend that payment to giving her a job. I understand where there's smoke there's fire, but also note the article never indicts Petrino of paying for sex. Lastly, please note this is the only article I have read about this issue, so perhaps there are details I'm missing.

by Will Allen :: Wed, 04/11/2012 - 3:29am

Why wouldn't a gross abuse of authority warrant termination?

(edit) Do you understand that a manager, at a taxpayer supported school, who gives a job to someone under false pretenses, has defrauded the taxpayers?

by Dales :: Wed, 04/11/2012 - 7:34am

"Could Petrino no longer afford to keep giving her gifts so instead he had to give her a job? Or was she blackmailing him into giving her a job?"

The fact that both of these possibilities cannot be dismissed (even if denied by him and her) is part of the reason he had to be fired. Another possibility is that he had given her $20k of his own, wanted to keep giving her money either because he felt it would keep her in his control or because he just wanted to, and knew if he kept using personal funds his wife would eventually notice, so he decided to use school money to do so by hiring her, to the detriment of all other applicants.

Other reasons why it was a firing offense above.

by Anonymous109083091 (not verified) :: Wed, 04/11/2012 - 9:37am

Anyone who is mystified by the firing is literally an idiot. You cannot publicly lie to your employer to the point where it is unkowingly complicit in your deceit (i.e. taking the coach's word, the school's press release stating that Petrino was riding alone). You cannot hire your mistress in a sham job search process.

The first is significant grounds for termination. The second opens tons of legal issues (affirmative action suits, future sexual harrasement claims against the school should similar behavior occur, etc.). Really, the school had no choice in the matter.

Anyone who thinks that $20K is a lot of money for someone who has made at least $20mm over the last 10 years obvoiusly has not made a lot of their money in their lives. There was likely no blackmail going on. In a battle of strength, the highest-paid public employee in the state always beats a 25-year-old underling. If Petrino wanted her to disappear quietly, he would have been able to do so.

by sundown (not verified) :: Wed, 04/11/2012 - 10:38am

I'll add a (4) which is that the mistress was engaged to another university employee. It might not have went public and cost him his job without the motorcycle accident, but this was going to end REALLY ugly at some point.

by Theo :: Wed, 04/11/2012 - 6:06am

He should make his public excuses and expres his faith in jesus.

by akn :: Wed, 04/11/2012 - 3:31pm

And do whatever it takes to have his wife holding his hand during the inevitable TV interview. After that he should withdraw from the public for a year before returning with a new book telling only his side of the story.

Then maybe he should run for congress.

by Mr Shush :: Wed, 04/11/2012 - 4:02pm

He's one of the ten or so best coaches in college football. He can do what he damn well likes. Someone will pay him a lot of money to coach their team.

by Will Allen :: Wed, 04/11/2012 - 4:27pm

You are probably right, and any AD that hires a known sociopath will deserve to be fired as well, the next time the sociopath, nearly inevitably, reveals his essential nature yet again. Maybe the university president too.

by Mr Shush :: Wed, 04/11/2012 - 9:39pm

If I were an AD, I wouldn't hire him unless I thought I was already in danger of being fired. But I think a rational man who knew his lucrative job depended on major improvement in the football programme might hire him even if he simply expected to get canned in four years' time not one as a result.

by DavidL :: Wed, 04/11/2012 - 4:49pm

If this were 2008 (and definitely if it were 2007 and he hadn't left Louisville yet), I'd agree with you. But Bobby Petrino just publicly made a fool out of his third straight employer. Fool me once, etc.

by Kyle D. (not verified) :: Wed, 04/11/2012 - 7:39pm

Houston Nutt also left Arkansas under a cloud that included an alleged affair and was coaching again the very next season. But it wasn't as big a scandal as this, he wasn't messing around with an employee, and there weren't payoffs involved.

by Independent George :: Wed, 04/11/2012 - 5:24pm

Don't forget the part where he promises to undergo "treatment" for his "disease".

by Kyle D. (not verified) :: Wed, 04/11/2012 - 7:47pm

I'd be willing to bet there'll be some disease come to light with Petrino, even if it's entirely bogus to make it easier to believe he's reformed. I've got depression at 5-2, followed by prescription meds at 3-1, alcohol at 5-1 and sex at 10-1.

by Mr Shush :: Wed, 04/11/2012 - 9:37pm

Put me down for Wizard Alien.

by The Voice (not verified) :: Wed, 04/11/2012 - 9:44am

I have said this so many times when people ruin their lives due to sex - hope the sex was really good, because that was the most expensive sex he's ever gonna have.

by MilkmanDanimal :: Wed, 04/11/2012 - 7:56pm

Out of pure curiosity (because I'm clueless on this sort of thing), when do actions like this cross the line from unethical to actively illegal? Petrino was a public employee who gave significant sums of money to his underling/mistress; if this was some kind of kickback for political favors (a la Blagojevic), he'd be looking at potential prison time for those actions. Does the fact this only involved him getting his rocks off mean he technically didn't break the law, as the only favors he was paying for were sexual and not political?

Honest question. Just trying to understand where the line in the sand is.

by Thomass (not verified) :: Thu, 04/12/2012 - 10:32am

"Actively illegal" hinges on proof and intent. Blagojevic was on tape demanding money in exchange for a U.S. Senate appointment. That's an easy one. If he'd been only hinting around, that would have been a tougher case to prove. If there were evidence Petrino paid directly for sex, that'd be illegal, or if she was a known drug dealer and it seemed clear he was buying from her, etc. But there hasn't been any evidence like that. Assuming Petrino paid her with his own money and didn't take it from a school account, there's nothing illegal about it. Now, if she had paid him and gotten some really important high-paying job, it'd be similar to the Blagojevic case, though that obviously isn't what happened.

by Alex51 :: Thu, 04/12/2012 - 7:22pm

Not sure, but I'd guess that if the university (and a prosecutor), really, really wanted to put Petrino in jail, they might be able to make an argument that hiring his mistress for a university job over more qualified applicants constituted some sort of fraud or theft. After all, the university was employing her based on Petrino's hiring decision, which (unbeknownst to the university) was basically, "let's hire the one I'm having sex with". You could argue that he defrauded the university out of the salary it paid his mistress, or that he stole that money for her, or something like that. But that'd be a real stretch, and not just because you'd have a lot to prove with relatively little hard evidence. I doubt any prosecutor would take that case.

And honestly, I doubt anybody involved even wants this case prosecuted. The university, Petrino, the mistress, the fans - everyone just wants this whole thing to go away as quickly as possible. Well, except maybe the media.

by sundown (not verified) :: Fri, 04/13/2012 - 11:14am

It's not illegal to hire friends, family members, or even the least qualified, so they'd never be able to prosecute him for that. He violated their internal policies, which got him fired, but the closest he came to doing anything illegal was in trying to keep her name out of the police report, which could possibly have been viewed as interfering with a police officer and/or filing a false report.

by tuluse :: Fri, 04/13/2012 - 11:23am

It is illegal to hire someone in exchange for sex however.

by MC2 :: Sat, 04/14/2012 - 1:49pm

As I understand it, they had been having sex for quite some time before she even applied for the position. If he had hired his wife, would you also see that as an exchange of sex for a job?

As far as I can tell, Petrino is a scumbag and a fool, but he's not a criminal (at least, not based on this).

by tuluse :: Sat, 04/14/2012 - 2:38pm

I that's that's why these claims are hard to prove and you rarely see criminal action.

by Alex51 :: Mon, 04/16/2012 - 2:48am

It's not illegal to hire friends, family members, or even the least qualified, so they'd never be able to prosecute him for that.

True, but it might be considered fraud to lie to your employer about how well qualified a job applicant is in order to get them to employ the least qualified applicant so that you can continue to have sex with her. And he did lie about his relationship with her, and, presumably, he lied about her being the most qualified applicant. Now, would that be enough of a misrepresentation to count as fraud? Maybe not, and even if it did, it'd be next to impossible to prove. And even if you could prove it, it'd be a very difficult case that no prosecutor would bother with.

by Benton Quest (not verified) :: Thu, 04/12/2012 - 1:34pm

I continue to be amazed at how parents and kids turn a blind eye to these guys with such blatant character flaws.

Petrino - quits on Falcons, alleges that LSU ran up the score on him this year

Saban - what a coach, but why berate the press in Miami when they found out you were going to Alabama by calling them liars?

Kryzewski - last fall on Dan Patrick, after ascending to the peak of his profession in wins, accuses Virginia of leaving Ralph Sampson in "the entire game" in a Virginia romp in the 1983 ACC Tournament (Sampson played 20 minutes).

Knight - where do we start?

Urban Meyer - may very well have left Florida because they weren't going to go 14-0 in the next season.

All great coaches, but it really makes me wonder - what do you think, Race?