Arkansas Wants to Keep Bobby Petrino
By now it should be clear to you that Arkansas doesn't want to fire Bobby Petrino.
If Arkansas wanted to fire Petrino it had ample evidence to do so on Thursday night. No, Arkansas doesn't want to fire Bobby Petrino at all. What's happening now is Arkansas is trying to find a reason not to fire Petrino. How are they doing that? By conducting their due diligence to see whether or not there are any other narrative land mines out there that could make Petrino unemployable.
Right now Petrino is in coaching intensive care. Every day that he survives makes it more likely that he will remain Arkansas's coach.
But right now Arkansas is doing its due diligence to ensure that if they stand behind their man there aren't other stories ready to pop that can make the university look even worse than it already does, stories that could serve to further humiliate the school. Already Arkansas will be treated with derision by much of the country. Choosing to keep a liar and a cheat employed at a public institution charged with grooming the next generation of Arkansas leaders will not play well across the nation.
But so be it.
What Arkansas can't have now is a surprise, a narrative land mine that blows up the Bobby Petrino reclamation project.
What kind of narrative land mines are there? And what other questions is the Arkansas brain trust grappling with as their investigation continues?
Here are five major issues to consider as Arkansas tries to save Petrino.
1. Petrino violated Arkansas's sexual harassment policy, what will that cost the school to remedy?
Here is the University of Arkansas employment handbook that I wrote about on Thursday.
Section 3:6 deals with sexual harassment.
When it comes to consensual relationships it states the following:
Consensual sexual relationships between faculty and their students or between supervisors and their employees in some instances may result in charges of sexual harassment.
Consensual relationships may lead other faculty and students or supervisors and coworkers to question the validity of grades, evaluations, and other interactions between the people involved in such a relationship. The integrity of the work of both people in the relationship may be compromised.
University faculty, administrators, and other supervisory staff should be aware that any sexual involvement with their students or employees could subject them to formal action if a sexual harassment complaint is subsequently made and substantiated, and that they bear the greater burden of responsibility should it be proven that the power differential between them made the relationship other than fully consensual. Even when both parties have consented to a relationship, it is the faculty member, administrator, or supervisor who may be held accountable for unprofessional behavior. Other students or employees may allege that the relationship creates a hostile or abusive environment affecting them. Graduate assistants, residence hall staff, tutors, and undergraduate course assistants who are professionally responsible for students will be held to the same standards of accountability as faculty in their relationships with students whom they instruct or evaluate.
When a consensual relationship exists between a student and a faculty member who has control over the student's academic work or status or between an employee and his or her supervisor, the resulting conflict of interest should be addressed in accordance with university policies concerning conflict of interest.
I'm guessing that Petrino didn't follow the "conflict of interest" policy as he was required to do as soon as Jessica Dorrell was a candidate for a job at the football office. A role that put her in a subordinate position to him.
The Arkansas employment handbook would have required him to notify his superior in writing about the relationship.
Here Petrino's supervisor would have been athletic director Jeff Long.
If Petrino notified Long of he and Dorrell's relationship and Arkansas still hired her, then Long would need to be fired too.
But based on present stories that didn't happen since he was trying to conceal the relationship.
If the Arkansas media wants a key question to ask Long at his next press availability it would be whether or not Petrino notified him in writing of his relationship with Dorrell.
If he didn't then he violated the school's sexual harassment policy.
Now, some of y'all are saying, but she hasn't complained of sexual harassment.
She doesn't have to complain for there to be a violation of the school's sexual harassment policy.
Institutions view sexual harassment as a corrupting influence because it affects more than just the individuals in a relationship. It impacts those who would have also loved to get the job that Dorrell did. If others interviewed -- and I'm sure others did otherwise this situation is even fishier -- for this job how could they get the job when Petrino's mistress wanted it too?
If you weren't sleeping with Petrino then this job wasn't truly available to you.
That means the best person didn't get the job, the one sleeping with the boss did.
That makes the existing institution weaker.
2. So what will it cost to remedy this violation of the school's sexual harassment policy?
(Again, Arkansas wants to keep Petrino and not use the violation of the university handbook as yet another, additional reason to fire him. If they wanted to fire him they could have already done so.).
Assume three things, a. Petrino's mistress Jessica Dorrell can no longer work at Arkansas. b. Dorrell's fiance can no longer work at Arkansas either. c. you want neither of these people talking to the media.
What do you do?
You buy their silence and pay them to leave.
We're talking millions of dollars.
Back in 1999 Alabama coach Mike DuBose had an affair with his secretary and Alabama paid her $350k to keep quiet.
That's not cutting it anymore.
In a TMZ and Gloria Allred era, the price of silence is much higher.
Dorrell's hopes of working in major college athletics are over. And her fiance has been humiliated beyond measure. Keeping both quiet is going to cost at least $3 million total.
Maybe much more.
(Hell, if Dorrell's really angry she could threaten to file a lawsuit against Petrino alleging sexual harassment -- saying he forced her to sleep with him in order to keep her job -- and end his coaching career forever. If I was advising Dorrell I'd tell her not to take anything less than $5 million.).
Now combine that settlement fee with whatever you're going to pay the other individuals who interviewed for the job that Dorrell got.
How pissed are those people right now? All of these people have valid civil claims against Petrino and Arkansas for sexual harassment related violations. And you sure as hell don't want these lawsuits advancing past summary judgment to the point where any of your employees have to be deposed.
Bobby Petrino under oath about his sexual history?
Do you want others in the athletic department asked under oath about whether they were aware of this affair? Are they aware of any other improprieties in Petrino's past?
Nope, you're tracking down all of those people and getting them to settle right now.
(Second tip for Arkansas media -- get the list of interviewees for this position. Pronto.)
Figure another few million in costs here.
So you're talking about a minimum of $5 million in civil payments as a direct result of Petrino's actions.
3. Are there other women out there?
Remember how rapidly Tiger Woods's paramours arose once one of them was outed? Before long it was easier to find women that Tiger wasn't cheating with. Right now Petrino has apologized for one inappropriate relationship. What if there are a series of women in his past? Put simply, Petrino is not employable if one by one women are going to out themselves. Especially if those women, like Jessica Dorrell, were actually affiliated with Petrino's past employers.
God forbid there are other mistresses that work for Arkansas.
I'm going to steal a term from the Bill Clinton presidential run in 1992.
Beware of bimbo eruptions.
That's what the Clinton advisers called new women popping up one after another alleging an affair with Governor Clinton.
If you're going to pay off Jessica Dorrell -- and you will be paying off Jessica Dorrell -- you have to be concerned that others will come forward with their hands out as well.
Are there others with legitimate stories?
You better hope not.
Or Petrino will slowly bleed to death of bimbos.
4. What kind of cover-up took place with the Arkansas police?
I've been on this from the moment I first read the arrest report.
Petrino was way too smart about trying to cover this up to be so dumb.
What I mean by that is, why would Petrino lie to his bosses about what happened if he'd already told the police the truth? He knew the accident report would be public at some point, right? So why did he scramble on Thursday to notify his boss that he'd lied? Simple, he thought the fix was in and the accident report story was going to be the same as the one he'd already told his boss and the public.
Which means he probably lied to the police initially.
The Arkansas State Police is investigating this investigation now -- never a good sign. (How many more levels can this go? Can they investigate the investigation that investigated the initial action?)
If Petrino's lies to the police come out then there's no way to save him.
5. What should Petrino's new contract look like?
If you're keeping Petrino he'll need to have a come to Jesus meeting with the media. He'll need to cry. He'll need to beg for forgiveness. And he'll probably need his family all standing there behind him while he cries.
That's what we do in stories such as these.
It's possible Petrino may need to be baptized behind the lectern.
Ultimately Petrino will claim to be a changed man, a redeemed man, a man who has learned from his errors and will never stray again.
Arkansas officials will wag their fingers and talk about last chances.
And his contract will be changed too, the better to make it clear how disappointed Arkansas officials are with Petrino's transgressions.
I'd expect that Arkansas will cut Petrino's pay in half -- from $3.6 million a year to around $1.8 million. (This will at least offset the millions the school will pay in civil settlements.) I'd expect that Arkansas will suspend Petrino from coaching the first two games of the season -- Jacksonville State and Louisiana-Monroe. (As I told you Friday,I think Mike Slive will add to that punishment.)
And I'd expect that the school will announce a new "zero tolerance policy" when it comes to future Petrino issues.
Then the school will announce that it's time to "move forward" and Razorback fans will call the Hogs in teary redemption.
That's the roadmap athletic director Jeff Long is hoping to follow right now.
Whether he can do it or not remains to be seen.
It's clear that Arkansas wants to keep Bobby Petrino. Now the question that still hangs out there is this, will anything more come out?
If only Arkansas had some prior notice that Petrino might be untrustworthy. Then the school wouldn't have been so blindsided by a motorcycle landing in a woody ditch.