Sometime before former University of Arkansas head coach Bobby Petrino got into a motorcycle accident while driving with his 25-year-old mistress on the back of his bike—which was some time after he had improperly hired her for an athletic department job and given her a $20,000 hiring bonus, and some time before he would deny that she was in fact on his Harley, and some months before the mistress was supposed to be married to her fiancée, who also worked for Petrino—he sent some text messages to a Re/Max realtor in Kentucky. The realtor was his former Director of Football Operations at Louisville University, Greg Brohm.
Both texts, the first and a subsequent response to Brohm, were likely sent while Petrino was riding said motorcycle. When Arkansas fired Petrino on Tuesday, they cited his dishonesty in the wake of the accident as a major reason for the move. Given the broader context of Petrino's career—which parallels that of a local politician busted for uploading cock-shots to a casual encounters site, except that politician somehow keeps getting elected to progressively higher offices, and also wins the lottery—it might seem odd Petrino got hired at all. Not because he isn't a good football coach. He is, having helped mould Arkansas into one of the better college football programs in the nation. But he's also a reminder that the people who become big-ticket college football coaches are Napoleonically defective and multiply creepy so as to be fundamentally un-hireable at any job except the one that also happens to be the best-paid taxpayer-funded gig in most of the college football-crazed right-to-work belt.
Petrino, for his part, was paid more than twice as much as Arkansas' second-best-compensated state employee, who happened to be the Razorbacks' basketball coach. After them, the competition was not terribly fierce: the state has maintained a pay freeze on public employees in each of the past three years. The exception to that trend was Petrino, a man who, if hired to manage a PF Chang's, would almost certainly get himself fired within a week for humping a bag of chow mein noodles, then lying about it to one of the giant horse sculptures out front, then hiring said bag of chow mein noodles as a hostess, and then trying to sneak a bunch of your-table-is-now-ready beepers out of the establishment in his khakis.
Only one demographic on earth would willingly entrust Bobby Petrino—or any of his slightly less egregious/grandiose/tumidly creepo analogues at virtually every other BCS college football program—with a job that involved a seven-figure salary and unlimited access to impressionable young people. Those people, though—call them Petrino People—happen to be the ones whose influence matters the most in college sports. That they are also perhaps the most similar to Bobby Petrino in terms of temperament, priorities, worldview and (presumably) outlook on the wisdom of texting a bud while driving a hog with your salaried mistress on the back is… well, it's unfortunate. But it's not surprising.
This is not, to be clear, meant to refer to Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long—whose salary, if you were wondering, is third-highest among Arkansas public employees, and who seems to have acted decisively and with some reasonable conviction in terminating Petrino. The community that Long serves, though, are Petrino's people—grown-ass men in team logo-wear, fanatically mis-prioritized adults whose cross-border counterparts eventually applaud a Petrino "proven winner" hiring at their publicly funded land-grant institution; who will defend him when he next gets caught with his dork in the proverbial bag of chow mein noodles or excoriate him when (as is more Petrino's style) he leaves suddenly for another gig after sticking a "God Bless"-y Dear John post-it note on his office door addressed to his players and the University TBD Family; who will demand the school hire someone like Petrino after he's gone.
These sulky armies of middle-aged whites are not reasonable, and can't be reasoned with. They're fine with letting some sports-talk radio host keep them on hold for 45 minutes just so they can get the chance to point out that Auburn is "full of faggots," so of course they both demand public sector pay freezes and cheer multimillion dollar contracts to khaki'ed-up sociopaths of Petrino's ilk. As long as these people are out there aspiring to be Petrino—His side-piece was 25, and blonde! He had a Harley!—to the point of actually dressing like him when they go to the supermarket, there will be a market both for Petrino and his oily gremlin cousins in the coaching fraternity; there will be people who mistake the dark comedy of his existence for some sort of flew-too-close-to-the-sun tragedy on an endless loop. Getting outraged about Petrino is easy, and kind of fun. Getting outraged about the fanbases and big-dollar boosters whose tragic priorities will keep him in circulation, on the other hand, is kind of bleak.
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