It was fitting that Bobby Petrino’s recent motorcycle crash left him with red abrasions all over his face.
After all, the Arkansas football coach’s selfishness has left plenty others red-faced over the years.
But for once it doesn’t look as if Petrino will be able to pull off an about-face, his signature move in the past for covering up his inability to tell the entire truth.
Because the married, 51-year-old Petrino was placed on leave Thursday night, pending a review, by Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long after finally admitting, only minutes before state police released their report, that he was accompanied on the motorcycle by a 25-year-old female subordinate.
In a statement Thursday, Petrino said he was concerned about the name of that woman, Jessica Dorrell, being revealed. He also acknowledged having had a "previous inappropriate relationship" to his family and school officials.
Now, Long must figure out whether to fire a liar or keep one who has a 21-5 record the past two seasons and a 2012 team that could be not only his best yet but one of the the Razorbacks’ best chances at a national championship since the program’s only one in 1964.
“I don’t know what I’m going to find,” Long said of his review. “I am disappointed that coach Petrino did not share with me, when he had the opportunity to, the full extent of the accident and who was involved.”
Of course, Petrino’s lie about his easy ride with Dorrell has the potential to even make Razorbacks fan Bill Clinton blush.
Petrino hired Dorrell on March 28 to serve as his program’s student-athlete development coordinator, and at the time he praised her as “a great addition.”
Even more embarrassing is that Arkansas was briefly involved in Petrino’s cover-up because university officials took him at his word about the crash and released his initial version of it.
So, just to review, Petrino not only lied, he attempted to cover up the fact he was not alone and admitted to an inappropriate relationship. That’s a move straight out of the playbook of a politician.
And once again Petrino is trying to be a politician as he tries to save his job from an apparent midlife crisis gone bad. Big Wheel Bobby is employing his best damage control, as he always does when he gets caught in a lie.
This time, though, he insists he was only trying to protect his family and keep his inappropriate relationship from becoming public.
“In hindsight, I showed a serious mistake in judgment when I chose not to be more specific about those details,” Petrino said in a statement.
But the fact of the matter is Petrino, who has a 34-17 record in four seasons at Arkansas, was only doing what he always does: looking out for himself. Just as he did during the inaugural year of his first head-coaching job at Louisville in 2003 when he sneakily met with Auburn officials to discuss the Tigers’ coaching gig during the latter part of the season.
It was a job held then by Tommy Tuberville, for whom Petrino had been offensive coordinator the previous season at Auburn. In a sign of his dishonesty to come, Petrino initially denied the meeting happened until Auburn officials later admitted it had indeed occurred.
That’s because the way Petrino tells it, he was always committed to Louisville during his four seasons with the Cardinals. Never mind that he interviewed for jobs with Notre Dame, LSU and the NFL’s Oakland Raiders during that time span and also expressed interest in others such as Florida, much to the displeasure of Louisville’s ever-loyal athletic director Tom Jurich.
Petrino was so committed to Louisville that six months after signing a 10-year contract worth at least $25.5 million with the Cardinals in July 2006, he fled to become coach of the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons.
And we all know how that move turned out: Petrino cowardly slithered away to Arkansas after 13 games of his first NFL season and thought it was best to inform his players of his resignation by leaving a four-sentence farewell statement in their lockers.
So don’t feel sorry for Long, because he knew exactly what he was getting in Petrino. Now, Long is left red-faced like all the others who have hired Petrino to be their head coach.
And if Long allows Petrino to stay, history says it’s bound to happen again. But it’s time for Long to turn the tables on Petrino and fire him for the first time in his career.
For once, Petrino should be the one who’s red-faced — and long after his abrasions have healed.