Jeff Pearlman

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Why Bobby Petrino is the Perfect Hire for Western Kentucky, by Jeff Tew

As most readers here probably know, I consider Bobby Petrino, Western Kentucky’s new head football coach, to be the scumbag of all scumbags; an awful guy who should never been allowed within 100 feet of high school or college athletes. His hiring two days ago sickened me, in that it showed—yet again—that winning trumps all; that even colleges and universities care significantly less about character development and moral fortitude than Ws and Ls.

That said, many disagree with me.

One person with an opposing take is Jeff Tew, a college football fan and Petrino supporter. After we sparred back and forth on Twitter, Jeff kindly agreed to come here and offer his take. You can follow Jeff on Twitter here, and he blogs occasionally here. I thank him for taking the time …

Two days ago, after an eight-month hiatus from coaching which was sparked from an affair with an employee and subsequent cover up to authorities at the University of Arkansas and Arkansas state police, Bobby Petrino was hired as the head football coach at Western Kentucky University.

The hire has sparked angst and vitriol amongst some fans of college athletics who have called it everything from unethical to immoral, absurd to despicable. Moralists and those with the highest of standards have asked, “How could a university president hire a man who was fired from his former employer for not only having a public affair on his wife, but did so with a university employee he hired then lied to university officials and the police in the aftermath that ensued?”

The best answer to this question: Todd Stewart, Athletic Director for Western Kentucky University, hired the absolute best-possible available coach for his football program.

Those who despised the hire just spewed their beverage of choice all over their computer or smart phone after reading that statement. Let’s all take a step back, take a deep breath and reexamine the situation.

Bobby Petrino is a football coach.  Let me repeat that again so it sinks in—Bobby Petrino is a football coach. Petrino’s job is not to be faithful to his wife or to even tell the truth, nor is his job to provide a moral compass for 18-to-22-year-old football players. Petrino’s job is to win football games.

Looking at Petrino’s record, he does that pretty damn well.

At Louisville, Petrino went 41-9 in his four seasons as head coach. He averaged 10 wins per season, won two conference titles and took the Cards to a BCS bowl game which brought priceless attention and notoriety to a college which had been strictly known as a basketball school.

After a brief and embarrassing stint with the Atlanta Falcons in 2007, Petrino was hired as head coach at Arkansas. In his final two years in Fayetteville, Petrino posted back-to-back 10-win seasons in the toughest division of the toughest conference in the nation and in the 2010 season took the Arkansas Razorbacks to their first BCS Bowl in the BCS era.

To some of you, these stats mean nothing and Petrino’s shortcomings in his personal life fully engulf any good he has done and could possibly ever do on the sidelines as head coach. There is absolutely nothing I can say or do to sway your opinion or change your mind.

Many of you may be asking where my moral compass lies. In my world, I see a little black, a little white and a plethora of gray. I have been married to my best friend for a year and a half. In September of 2012 we welcomed our first child, a son. I cannot fathom a situation where I would ever have an affair on my wife. I also don’t consider it my job to lay blame or be the judge, jury and executioner to the choices anyone else makes in his/her personal life.

Petrino had an affair on his wife and lied to authorities in the hours after his notorious motorcycle wreck with his mistress, Jessica Dorrell. Arkansas fired him, the police did not press charges and his wife forgave him. Anyone hung up on anything else with this situation would be best suited to move on.

Bobby Petrino is not a sex offender. He’s not a convicted murderer. He is not the leader of a pyramid scheme that duped hundreds of thousands of the elderly out of their retirement.

Bobby Petrino is an adulterer, which lumps him in a category with more than 50 percent of the rest of United States. Another well-known adulterer is President William Jefferson Clinton and here’s a Newsflash: He was damn good at his job and still has the highest approval rate of any President in history … AND HE WAS IMPEACHED!

While the postseason coaching carousel has turned about this year, Clay Travis, famed sports journalist and owner of OutKickTheCoverage.com, gave the best rendition to answers I have heard concerning questions of Bobby Petrino.  In a recent interview on The Out of Bounds Show on 105.1FM in Jackson, Mississippi, Clay said (I’m paraphrasing here), “I don’t know about you, but if I’m about to go into a major surgery, I could care less if the surgeon has had an affair or multiple affairs on his wife. If he’s the best damned surgeon in the world, I could care less about his personal life.”

I could not have given my opinion on the matter any better.  If we remove every coach from the sidelines who has had an affair on his wife, the sidelines of college football would be desolate.

Clay was in attendance at Western Kentucky for the press conference of Petrino and called the hire a “homerun”.  I’ll go a step further: The hire was a grand slam, down by three in the bottom of the ninth in game seven of the World Series.

Western Kentucky and Bobby Petrino will both benefit from this hire and I will make you all a guarantee: Within three years, Bobby Petrino will be coaching a major college football program and flourishing … just as he’s always done.

  • John

    One thing you fail to mention is that Petrino hired his mistress to a job she was unqualified for due to the conditions of their relationship. This is a fireable offense within any company or industry. Bill Clinton certainly had not promoted Miss Lewinsky to a cabinet position prior to his fateful impeachment.

  • Clayton

    I’m with you on Petrino in part. I guess I get hung up on how long should he be punished. He lost his job and untold millions at Arkansas. For many, (WKU included)that would be punishment enough. Should he never be allowed to coach again? Should no one ever hire a truly exceptional coach because of severe errors and bad judgement in the past? What’s an appropriate amount of time for AD’s to effectively “suspend” him before considering him for employment?

  • Drew

    I think Petrino is a POS as well…but stop busting on WKU. Western Kentucky is “a school with mediocre athletics and apparently, sub-mediocre standards.” Was that comment really necessary? If you want to bash someone, start with the Athletic Director and/or the President of the University. Only mediocre sports columnists with few journalistic standards make comments like this.

  • joe

    There’s a whole lot more to the story that wasn’t published. The whole incident was an old fashioned a**-whoopin. There was no bike wreck and her fiancee (sp?) hasn’t been heard from since the incident. His name vanished from the U of A website the following day. He worked at U of A as well. There was not a mark on her yet his face appeared to have gone through a hamburger grinder. They totaled the Harley even though there was very little damage.

  • http://revenantrt.blogspot.com/ Rick T

    First let me say that it takes “guts” to write what Jeff wrote about Petrino. He didn’t take the “politically correct” stance and mince his words. He called it like he saw it, which few journalists do anymore.
    I am disappointed in Western Kentucky. I was born and bred in Kentucky and am a UK graduate and it frustrates me to see that a Kentucky school has not focused on what they are there for – to teach the students not only book knowledge but life lessons. Choosing Bobby Petrino showed that they have “sold out”, opted for the money rather than taken the high road. They figured they would capitalize on the fact that Kentuckians have not had a lot brag about prior to Basketball season. So they figured Petrino could build their mediocre football program at WKU and in the process rake in the bucks and become the number one football team in the state. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with that thinking. It’s the means to the end that is the problem. Believe me I’m no moralist, and I agree with Tew that if every coach in college football and the NFL were fired who had an affair there would be a lot less coaches around. It isn’t necessarily the affair that is the problem. It’s what Bobby Petrino stands for and the way he conducted his daily responsibilities and the example he sets for those in his charge. How many contracts did he not honor by leaving early because it was to HIS benefit, forget the student athletes who counted o him to be there for them. How many student athletes did he let down and disappoint? The way he conducted his affairs showed that he was one of those people that thought the rules did not apply to him. He was above “the rules”. He lived his life for Bobby Petrino – the rest of the world be damned. To allow that type of individual to “lead” students is a dangerous thing. Is that the example that should be set for them. Someone at Western Kentucky was responsible to “vet” Petrino and it is obvious that ultimately whoever that was, be it the athletic director, the university president or both, failed to focus on the reason they exist the reason they have their jobs – to serve the student. They might do well to think about what another college coached believed and lived by -Lou Holtz. He lived to WIN! WIN – pretty simple rule for a college coach. WIN! Butnot football games but rather WIN – focus on What’s Important Now. It is clear the Western Kentucky’s administration clearly did not understand which WIN is most important.

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Once again, Jeff Pearlman has produced an exhaustively researched, elegantly written book that re-creates one of the most colorful and memorable teams of the modern era. No basketball fan's bookshelf will be complete without it.

— Seth Davis, author of Wooden: A Coach's Life