Bobby Petrino back at Arkansas proves cancel culture isn’t real

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Staying in coaching was never going to be a problem for Bobby Petrino. Once coaches reach a certain status, most can work for as long as they are willing to pack up suitcases and change homes every few years. But to be welcomed back onto the Arkansas campus, and likely paid a salary to again be a part of the football program, the university is holding its nose in the face of a mound of pig suey.

According to ESPN’s Chris Low and Pete Thamel, Petrino has agreed to become Arkansas’ offensive coordinator. He will be on campus at Fayetteville, Ark., on Wednesday for the deal to be finalized. Per Low and Thamel, the hire will likely need to be approved by the president of the university. That would be Dr. Donald R. Bobbit, who was in that position when Petrino was fired as Arkansas head football coach amid scandal in 2012.

The salacious, and honestly pretty impressive, part of it all was Petrino’s commitment to the cover-up. Arkansas State Police was less than a half hour from releasing their report on his motorcycle accident before he finally confessed that he was accompanied by his mistress — an employee of the university.

Petrino broke four ribs and a vertebrae in his neck and still instructed passersby to not call 911. Petrino was a literally broken millionaire sprawled out on a road in Arkansas. This injured coach dissuaded passersby from dialing 911. All of that effort to ensure that there would be a chance he could get away with claiming that he was alone on the motorcycle.

He had recently hired his mistress to a position on the Arkansas football staff without disclosing their relationship or adhering in any way to the school’s affirmative action policy when hiring her. The man broke the rules to hire a woman he was cheating on his wife with and then, once she was hired, he put a university employee in danger by allowing her to ride on the back of his motorcycle and crashing it.

But forgive and forget 11 and a half years later, because Petrino has supposedly learned from the consequences of his actions. One of those consequences was immediately becoming the head coach at Western Kentucky. He stayed there for a year and then he returned to the school where he first became a head football coach — Louisville.

He did eventually get fired from that position, but because the Cardinals started losing. Petrino went back down to the FCS level and briefly revived Missouri State — leading them to their first conference championship in 30 years.

In 2023, he was hired as UNLV’s offensive coordinator. However, he shook loose from them the same way he did the Atlanta Falcons in 2007: Quickly. Petrino took that job not knowing that Michael Vick was on his way to jail. He quit with three games remaining in the regular season to become the head coach at Arkansas. After three weeks on the job with UNLV, Texas A&M offered Petrino a job as offensive coordinator and he was gone.

I am not saying that the 11 and a half years since the motorcycle accident was painless for Petrino. After all, the man suffered fractures in his rib and neck. I’m certain that was unpleasant, although that was the result of an accident and not a punishment for subverting his employer’s affirmative action policy.

The firing was disciplinary and three years later he was the head coach of a team with a Heisman Trophy winner — Lamar Jackson. It could be argued that he suffered his worst professional consequences for losing too many games during his second stint at Louisville. This time around, he is crawling back into FBS as an offensive coordinator.

I cannot judge from afar if Petrino is properly remorseful for the shame that he brought on himself and the University of Arkansas with one of the most memorable college-sports scandals of the 21st century.

That decision is in the hands of Dr. Bobbit. The reporting leads me to believe that the deal is done and all that remains is a press conference. But for Petrino to move through his career the same way he did before that scandal all those years ago, and Arkansas still is bringing him back, the school looks more desperate than any pig ever has been for supper.

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