According to a tweet from ESPN’s Joe Schad, Bobby Petrino is out as Arkansas’ football coach. The news will presumably be made official at a news conference later this evening. Petrino, of course, is currently on leave after it was revealed he initially lied about details of a motorcycle crash he was involved in: specifically, that he was riding with a female passenger with whom he happened to be having an affair – and whom he had just hired as part of his support staff at Arkansas.
Obviously, this is a doozy of a lie, but we’re surprised Petrino lost his job over it, and we’re not alone. We’re surprised because while Petrino once again leaves behind a sketchy record off the field, as he’s done at all three spots he’s been a head coach, just like he did at Louisville, he leaves behind a glowing record on it. Petrino went 21-5 over his last two seasons at Arkansas, and was primed for another big season in 2012. He’s one of the best coaches in the game. You can lament it, but college football is a results-oriented business. Results = wins. Petrino gets those in large quantities, and as such, we thought Arkansas should have kept him.
Many Arkansas fans felt the same way, but ultimately, the school felt he’d simply done too much to effectively continue on. It’s very possible the school just thought Petrino wouldn’t be able to win the trust of recruits anymore, though we think the allure of playing in the SEC for a team that’s been on a roll over the last two seasons would have made up for that. It all adds up to a muddied present and future for both Arkansas and Petrino. Who gets the job at Arkansas? (We’d guess they give the job to an assistant for now, and search in full after the season.)
And what happens to Petrino? He’ll go underground for a while. Maybe he’ll be out of coaching this year, or take a special assistant job a la Jim Tressel (NFL teams might be hesitant to bring him on in any capacity, though, after what he did to the Falcons in 2007). Whatever he does, he’ll do his time away from the spotlight, and the guess here is he’ll eventually emerge as a head coach again before his career is over.
Again, it comes down to wins and losses. Petrino has many of the former and few of the latter. Down the line, that will seduce another school. Even if history shows it won’t end well, in the interim, history also shows that whatever school employs Bobby Petrino as head coach will be a winner. And in a business where winning rules above all else, that will be enough.