Bobby Petrino plays ultimate SEC villain

May, 22, 2012
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Coaching villains are supposed to rip the hearts out of opposing fan bases. They’re supposed to send chills down the spines of those dressed in the wrong garb. They’re supposed to wreck the enemy.

It isn’t supposed to be the other way around.

But there are always exceptions, and this year Arkansas happened to be on the wrong end of the unfortunate situation in which Bobby Petrino took that infamous joy ride on April 1.

[+] EnlargeBobby Petrino
Wesley Hitt/Getty ImagesFormer Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino made himself the easy choice as the SEC's top villain this year.
That day started a chain of deceitful events that sent Arkansas’ hero into the leagues of the villainous.

After pulling Arkansas from the depths of inconsistency, he might have cost the Razorbacks the ultimate prize by thinking of only himself while committing a laundry list of mistakes that cost him his job.

Less than three months after guiding Arkansas to its first 11-win season in nearly four decades, and being a little more than a year removed from the program’s first BCS bowl berth, Petrino was fired months before he could really do anything with a team he felt might have been his best in Fayetteville.

When he veered off a highway on his motorcycle near the town of Crosses in Madison County, Ark., to kick off April, his superstar status in Fayetteville slowly began to crumble.

First, there was the lie about being alone on his Harley-Davidson. Petrino, 51, later admitted (just before the police report was made public) that someone was with him -- 25-year-old Jessica Dorrell, whom Petrino helped hire to work in the football department.

Petrino, a married father of four, then admitted to carrying on an inappropriate relationship with Dorrell, which he said took place for more than a year. It was later discovered that Petrino had given Dorrell $20,000 in cash and shared more than 4,300 text messages and nearly 300 phone calls with her.

Nine days later, athletic director Jeff Long dismissed Petrino, putting the dignity of the university ahead of winning football games.

But the damage to Arkansas’ program had already been done. Not only was shame brought to it, but the offensive genius responsible for getting Arkansas toward the top of the SEC West was gone. Arkansas’ leader had become consumed with power, arrogance and that destructive feeling of invincibility.

If the accident itself didn’t reveal just how conceited Petrino was, all that electronic communication he had with Dorrell (on his work phone no less) certainly did. He didn’t become a villain just for his physical actions; he became one because he put himself before his team.

He embarrassed himself, his university, the team, his boss and his family when he took that joy ride, but this wasn’t the first time Petrino shook a team with a humiliating exit. His arrival at Arkansas didn’t come without controversy, either, as he walked out on the Atlanta Falcons with three games remaining during his first year in 2007.

At least he left a note.

He almost scurried away from Louisville before his first year was finished when he secretly met with Auburn about its not-yet-vacant head-coaching job, where Petrino’s former boss, Tommy Tuberville, was still employed. Not to mention more supposedly secret discussions with Florida, LSU, Notre Dame and Ole Miss in 2004.

There’s that wonderful quote in "The Dark Knight" -- “You either die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.” -- that pretty much sums up Petrino’s last few stops.

But like Petrino’s previous places of employment, Arkansas will move on. It’ll grow and find new leadership under interim coach John L. Smith. Players have vowed to complete the journey Petrino started. They will rise up, while Petrino’s character continues to fall.

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