Arkansas makes right call with Petrino

Arkansas jokes have always been a given.

We have all heard the ones about hillbillies, Walmarts and even favorite son Bill Clinton.

But with Arkansas’ firing of Bobby Petrino on Tuesday night — after he initially lied about 25-year-old subordinate Jessica Dorrell being with him when he crashed his motorcycle earlier this month, and after the revelation he was involved in an "inappropriate relationship" with her — all Razorbacks fans should be belting out "Woo Pig Sooie!"

Because instead of being just another punch line, Arkansas is a shining example for the rest of college athletics to follow. By terminating Petrino, it reminded us of what is all too often overlooked: Integrity means far more than wins and losses.

There’s really no other way to explain athletic director Jeff Long’s correct and gutsy firing of Petrino, who had a 21-5 record the past two seasons at Arkansas. After all, Razorbacks fans thought this next season was supposed to be the one for their head coach, with their two toughest games at home and a pair of Heisman Trophy candidates in quarterback Tyler Wilson and running back Knile Davis.

Not just the one in which Petrino won the SEC, but also a national championship.

And with the SEC’s well-deserved reputation of winning at all costs, it wouldn’t have been entirely stunning if Arkansas somehow had figured out a way to keep Petrino instead of sending him to another ugly exit.

But my, how things have changed during the past year. No longer is a coach more precious than a university’s image — just ask Penn State and Ohio State.

Unfortunately for Long, there are a bunch of classless Arkansas fans who never will understand that. They are the ones who showed up at an on-campus rally for Petrino on Monday night with signs such as "What’s Wrong With Scoring In the Offseason?" and a misspelled one that read "Define Innappropriate."

They don’t care that Petrino’s behavior was shamefully described as "reckless and unacceptable" as well as "misleading and manipulative" by Long during his announcement of Petrino’s firing Tuesday night.

Or that, according to Long, Petrino said he gave $20,000 to an engaged Dorrell and was involved in her being hired over 158 other applicants for a job that reported directly to him.

Long knows all this, and it’s why he also said about Petrino’s firing, "I realize this decision may not sit well with some Razorbacks fans."

Those upset are the types who have embarrassed the state of Arkansas for years. They are the ones who hardly noticed when Long got choked up Tuesday night as he recalled how he shared his disappointment of having to fire Petrino with Razorbacks players during a team meeting.

"We have high standards," Long said. "Our expectations of character and integrity in our employees can be no less than what we expect from our students. No single individual is bigger than the team, the Razorback football program or the University of Arkansas."

But Petrino thought he was after all his years of getting away with deception, backstabbing and lies, especially when it came to other jobs. Arkansas fans should be proud that Long didn’t see it the same way.

He had the courage to correct the mistake he made in hiring Petrino four years ago. Forget the whole Arkansas-can-only-win-with-Petrino mentality.

This wasn’t about anything on the field. It was about doing the right thing off it.

Razorbacks fans who do not get that are the real punch lines. They’re the ones who have the rest of the country telling Arkansas jokes.