by Chris Bahn
Posted 4/10/2012 04:35 pm
Updated 7 months ago
What a sympathetic and heroic figure Bobby Petrino appeared this time last week. Petrino, dressed in his usual coaching garb accented with a neck brace and Sugar Bowl hat, met with media to deliver an update on his motorcycle crash.
Petrino offered the details of his crash. He showed us all how Petrino tough he was.
But Petrino isn’t a sympathetic figure in this at all now that elements of his off-field life have been made public, along with the extent to which he went to keep those elements private. Ultimately, those resulted in him being relievd of his duties at Arkansas after four-plus seasons and a 34-14 record.
Petrino appeared to be hitting the home stretch of rehabbing his public image. Instead, he piloted his motorcycle and Jessica Dorrell off a straightaway on Highway 16 and into a ditch, where he came up with broken bones and a national reputation that is now back on life support.
Regardless of how much pain he was in following the wreck — State Police Captain Lance King says Petrino did nothing but groan on the way to the hospital (well, groan and provide detailed directions on how to get to the little known Physician’s Specialty Hospital)— it’s became impossible to muster much sympathy for Petrino.
But there are folks that deserve your empathy. None of them are wearing neck braces. All of them have been hurt in ways that aren’t as visible as the road rash on Petrino's face.
Consider the position in which Petrino has put his staff.
All of these guys signed up for long hours and a relentless pursuit of perfection to please their boss. Every one of them is well compensated financially, but it can't buy them peace of mind. Those six-figure salaries aren't going to stop the questions and stares from coming their way.
Defensive coordinator Paul Haynes and linebackers coach/acting head coach Taver Johnson especially come to mind. Both are native Ohioans who spent the bulk of their lives and professional careers in Ohio. Each coach is bright and has a promising future he thought would be maximized by buying into Petrino and his "grind" mentality.
Believing they had a great opportunity here, the coaches packed up their families and moved them nearly 800 miles from home. Transitioning to a new job, introducing your family to a new town is tough enough.
Know who else you should feel for today? Running backs coach/recruiting coordinator Tim Horton. He has deep ties to the UA, not just as a football staff member, but as former player and alum.
Horton’s name, like many of yours, is etched into Senior Walk. The UA means more to him than just football.
Much of the credit for Petrino’s first recruiting class goes to Horton. And without that class, a group that included key pieces to Petrino’s offense, the program doesn’t go 21-5 the last two years and get Arkansas into the national title conversation.
Every year Horton is faced with having to answer questions about Petrino’s public perception, which is based mainly on tbe abrupt, cold way he left other programs before arriving at Arkansas. As the face of the Razorbacks’ recruiting efforts, Horton already faced an uphill battle.
Petrino's presence post-wreck wasn't going to make attracting players to Arkansas any easier.
Recruiting should have been a snap coming off of those 21 victories and with the $40 million Petrino Palace being built. Returning players included two preseason Heisman Trophy candidates that prospective recruits should be hearing about in the offseason.
Instead of talking about Sports Illustrated’s excellent profile of Knile Davis and the hardships he’s overcome, we talked about the hardships imposed on the current team because of Petrino. Of the 300 minutes worth of TV and radio hits (including three national shows) I’ve done since April 2, approximately 10 minutes have been devoted to Razorback football.
It’s a shame. And there is nobody to blame ... but Petrino. He has altered the conversation, not to mention the lives of numerous people.
Dorrell’s fiancé. Other employees at Arkansas. Business owners who stake their livelihood on the success and power of the Razorback brand. The Good Samaritan who called 911 after coming upon the wreck, who has already received threats via a Hogville message board post titled: “Hey, Larry. Snitches get stitches.”
Petrino's wife. His kids and grandkids.
None of them deserve this. You certainly don’t.
Petrino demanded a lot of his superiors, his staff, his players and Arkansas fans and alumni. Rarely was their best effort, their undivided attention good enough for him.
Never did Petrino offer them the same.