It’s tough, we suppose, when you make millions of dollars … when your life has been filled with far more wins than losses, to the point that you might feel invincible … when you have probably cheated or conspired or covered up before, and gotten away with it …
But you have to believe us, Bobby Petrino and all current or future wrongdoers of his ilk: The crime might be bad. And in the case of Petrino, the full balance of everything he did might have been bad enough to warrant firing regardless. However: The cover-up, if you are caught, is always going to be worse.
Sports history – even real history – is full of ballooning lies and leaking truths culminating in sad, ugly endings that could have been softened. Likewise, there are countless tales of immediate contrition leading to reasonably swift redemption.
After all, the latter is what we want, perhaps more so now than ever. We accept human nature, we understand moments of weakness, but we demand accountability. Though their transgressions are completely different, immediate and sincere apology might be the reason Ozzie Guillen still has a job.
Until it was far too late, Petrino gave us all the exact opposite. And the result, too, was quite the opposite. He covered up his “inappropriate relationship” with Jessica Dorrell, a 25-year-old he hired days before their ill-fate motorcycle accident. He covered up her presence at the accident site. He was like a trapped ballcarrier, twisting and turning, running backwards away from swarming defenders, finally going down at the 1-yard line because it was the only move left after digging a hole that deep.
“He made the decision, a conscious decision, to mislead the public … and in doing so negatively and adversely affected the reputation of the University of Arkansas and our football program,” Arkansas AD Jeff Long said Tuesday night in announcing Petrino’s firing. "In short, coach Petrino engaged in a pattern of misleading and manipulative behavior designed to deceive me and members of the athletic staff, both before and after the motorcycle accident."
Indeed. If anyone has a harder time stomaching the cover-up more than fans it's the direct stakeholders. Long held the keys to Petrino's job. Petrino wrecked it like his motorcycle. And in the end, there was nothing else Long could do but take the keys away.