Yesterday, the athletic director for the Western Kentucky Hilltopers, Todd Stewart, made a bold decision and gave Bobby Petrino a second chance.
People all over the country have voiced their opinion on how Stewart is risking the integrity of the university by setting morals aside to hire a coach with a questionable background to win at all costs.
Let he who is without fault cast the first stone.
There’s no denying that Bobby Petrino screwed up. Royally.
Last spring, Petrino took a Sunday afternoon motorcycle ride that changed the course of his life forever. It wasn’t just the ride. It was the intern that was along for the ride. It was the lies he told to athletic director, Jeff Long, in the hours and days following the wreck. It was the uncovering of the fact that the intern was actually Petrino’s girlfriend. And it was the fact that Petrino had manipulated the hiring process to get her a position within the athletic department.
And everyone within a close proximity was affected by the blast. Jeff Long was put in a no-win situation: keep Petrino and ostracize the moral conscious fans or fire him and ignore the win-at-all-cost fans. He took the high road and fired him. The assistant coaches were in limbo. The players were left with a sense of uncertainty with no leader to guide and direct them. The fans were in a state of confusion. Let’s not forget there is a family involved as well, and the Petrino family was turned upside down and drug through a mess they never asked for. A lot of people wanted to throw stones.
Yeah, he screwed up. Yeah, it was royally. But hang on to those stones for a moment.
I am by no means absolving Bobby Petrino of any wrong doing nor am I excusing what he did with what I am about to say. But before we throw our jagged little rocks, maybe we should look in the mirror and do a quick self-evaluation.
We’ve created this monster. Not Bobby Petrino, but the world he lives in. Head football coaches at the highest level of college football are put on a pedestal. They are worshipped and revered like they are an earthly deity. They are paid seven figure salaries that would eliminate some 3rd world countries’ hunger problems. They are honored more than the governors of their respective states. When they talk, tens of thousands of people listen. They are handed the keys to a program and told to win and win now. And if they don’t, they’ll be looking for another job faster than a five star recruit changes his mind on signing day. The stress level is astronomical and the pressure is even greater.
We expect them to be great teachers, great strategists, great coaches, great motivators, great recruiters, great networkers, great fund raisers, great husbands, great fathers, great role models and great people. Oh, and while they’re at it, don’t do anything stupid to screw it all up. We expect them to be perfect. What we don’t expect them to be is human.
But Bobby Petrino is human. And he screwed up. But, that’s what humans do. We screw up. Not often do our screw ups have the intense ripple effect that Bobby Petrino’s screw up had, but we all screw up.
Luckily for us humans, we live in a society that is inherently forgiving. We live in a society that pulls for the underdog. We live in a society that loves a good comeback story. Luckily for Bobby Petrino, he lives in that society as well. We are a society of second chances.
Did Bobby Petrino’s actions cause a lot of heartache and pain? Absolutely they did. For a lot of people. There are some assistant coaches at the University of Arkansas who do not have a job today, ultimately because of Bobby Petrino’s indiscretions. There is a former intern whose identity will forever be linked to this brief moment in her life. There is a football program that will take years to recover from the backlash of the events. Bobby Petrino’s reputation and career have been damaged; and he’ll never make up the lost time and income. Most importantly, there was a family that was fractured and will spend the rest of their lives trying to heal the wounds from this moment in time.
Hopefully, he’s learned from his mistakes. He is certainly saying the right things. In interviews he’s done recently, he says that he wants to be a better person, a better husband and father, and a better coach. He thinks his experience will help him in his relationships with his players by focusing on coaching the person as well as the player. He is taking full responsibility for his actions and addressing questions about his mistakes the way a stand up person should.
The truth of the matter is that nobody cares what he says. All anyone is interested in is his actions. Only time will tell whether or not he is sincere.
I predict that he will make people take more notice of Western Kentucky. I predict he’ll win games there and take them to places the program has never been before. I’ll even go so far to say that if he stays, he’ll take them to the school’s first ever BCS bowl. That’s what he does. He’s a phenomenal football coach.
I’ll also say that he’ll probably make some mistakes along the way. Remember, he’s human. When that happens and you bend down to pick those stones back up, remember one thing, you’re human too.