Wednesday, April 11, 2012

TOP STORY >> You have to admire Jeff Long

Leader Executive Editor

Jeff Long, the Razorbacks’ athletic director, restored Arkansas’ good reputation when he announced Tuesday evening that he had fired the execrable Bobby Petrino as the head football coach.

Like a prosecuting attorney who knows he has a solid case against a defendant, Long called Petrino “reckless, manipulative and deceptive.” Long zeroed in on Petrino’s appalling behavior not only after the fateful motorcycle ride with his girlfriend, Jessica Dorrell, but cited other examples of moral turpitude, including Dorrell’s hiring as an assistant over 150 other applicants without disclosing their relationship and giving her $20,000.

The long list of sins include his abuse of authority, issuing misleading statements, putting the university in a negative light and jeopardizing the football program. Petrino, in short, “engaged in reckless and inappropriate behavior and put himself in the national spotlight” to the team’s detriment.

Often holding back tears as he addressed a group of reporters in Fayetteville, Long said Petrino was “terminated with cause,” meaning there was no reason to buy out his contract, worth $16 million.

It really bothered Long that Petrino waited five days — just minutes before the State Police report came out — to tell him the truth about the motorcycle ride with Dorrell and the attempted coverup involving three state employees.

Petrino’s actions after the accident tell you even more about his character than his decision to take a young subordinate on a motorcycle ride that could have killed both of them.

Petrino risked his life and his assistant’s life when he insisted no one call 911. Alcohol may have cushioned the pain from the crash, but both riders were hurting. The much older Petrino was obviously in worse shape than Dorrell on that April Fool’s ride, but both probably needed an ambulance.

The Good Samaritans who picked them up and the state trooper assigned to Petrino’s security detail — who showed up later in the drama — also refused to call for an ambulance, hoping to avoid a scandal. Petrino could have died or been paralyzed getting into two different vehicles.

Although at least one passing motorist called 911, Petrino, who was badly bruised and bleeding, had convinced the Good Samaritans not to call 911 but to take him and Dorrell to her car several miles up the road.

Petrino called State Police Capt. Lance King to meet them at Dorrell’s car at a restaurant parking lot. Petrino was rushed to a Fayetteville hospital in King’s vehicle, while Dorrell took off in her own car.

Did King violate the law when he, too, failed to call for an ambulance? A State Police report released Monday said King didn’t do anything wrong.

But why were first responders not called? Petrino’s head was a bloody mess, and he had sprained his neck and had a couple of broken vertebrae. What if his vertebral injury was worse and there were other serious internal injuries?

He could have been paralyzed for life when King put him in his car rather than call for emergency help.

King was also good enough to tip off Petrino moments before a State Police report was released with Dorrell’s name as the rider on his Harley Davidson.

That gave Petrino just enough time to call Long to tell him he’d lied all week about riding alone on his Harley.

You have to wonder if Petrino will coach again, but who cares?

Had Petrino stayed on as coach, we would have heard about his ride in the Ozarks and seen his bloodied face and smashed motorcycle on every nationally televised game next year.

Cynics think Arkansas goes overboard when it comes to the Razorbacks. But Long showed Tuesday that winning isn’t everything, that “no single individual is bigger than the team.”

Long made us proud to be Arkansans and gave us reason to cheer for the Hogs again.

Could Gus Malzahn be the next Razorbacks coach?