Arkansas isn't quite ready to let go of coach Bobby Petrino.
Petrino was placed on administrative leave last Thursday after admitting he had engaged in an "inappropriate relationship" with 25-year-old Jessica Dorrell, whom he hired as student-athlete development coordinator in March.
In the wake of the discipline, several fans flocked to Facebook to show their support for the embattled coach.
"Team Save Coach Petrino" has nearly 8,000 members who don't want to see Petrino fired for his indiscretions with a female employee half his age. The group is private and you have to be approved to join, but smaller public pages such as "Keep Head Coach Bobby Petrino," "Save Bobby Petrino" and "Support Bobby Petrino" also have popped up on Facebook.
As part of the "Team Save Coach Petrino" Facebook initiative, several other fans have organized a rally in front of an administration building Monday night to persuade athletic director Jeff Long to keep Petrino as the Razorbacks' head coach.
Well, it's clear, for some in Arkansas, winning seems to be more important than morality.
It's not just that Petrino was having an "inappropriate relationship" with Dorrell, it's that he lied to pretty much everyone about it. When Petrino was injured in the motorcycle accident that started this snowball, his family issued a statement saying no one else was involved in the accident. On Tuesday, when he met with the media, Petrino said no one else was on the bike. It wasn't until the media got hold of the police report that the truth was known and Petrino had to come clean about who he was with to both his bosses and his family.
Dorrell was on Petrino's motorcycle on April 1 when it crashed and the two ended up in a ditch. Petrino suffered a broken vertebra and four broken ribs as a result of the accident. Dorrell was unharmed.
During the press conference, Petrino said he had spent the day with his wife at the lake and mentioned he was sitting with her when trying to determine which helmet to wear before ultimately going without one. Not sure his wife would have been excited about that conversation had she known her husband was trying to look his best for his rendezvous with his mistress.
Long has a tough decision to make regarding Petrino's future. This isn't about being the morality police, this about the perception of the Arkansas program. How could Petrino sit in a recruit's home and sell his parents on making their son a better man? How could they believe what he's saying or want him to be a role model for their child?
There are a lot of moving pieces that will likely determine Long's decision. The Arkansas State Police is investigating whether Capt. Lance King, a member of Petrino's security detail whom Petrino called after the accident, acted inappropriately. King met Petrino and Dorrell in Fayetteville and took Petrino to the hospital while Dorrell left in her own car. If that officer is found guilty and fired, it doesn't bode well for Petrino.
Similarly, there are several prominent boosters who are probably torn over the whole ordeal. They want Arkansas to win, but at what cost? Has Petrino caused enough embarrassment for those people to turn on him?
Of course, Arkansas is winning football games and bringing in millions of dollars to the program and that's something that can't be taken lightly. Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino, who was involved in a similar situation in 2009, just led his team to the Final Four and his indiscretions were the last thing on people's minds. Perhaps that's what Arkansas is hoping. The program will take some initial guff for the decision to keep Petrino, but winning makes people forget.
At the very least, winning is blinding several on Facebook who are hoping their pleas to keep Petrino outweigh those with moral outrage.
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