When your home state, and your alma mater, suddenly become focal points of a huge, embarrassing firestorm that stuns the world of college football, you don't know how to react. So you keep a low profile, because you have no defense, no retaliation, no way to answer. Penn State knows the feeling. Same with Ohio State, Southern Cal, North Carolina and others.
Now, hitting home for me, it's all about Arkansas and its ousted head coach, Bobby Petrino. He cheated on his wife for who knows how long, mostly with a former Razorback volleyball player who's the same age (25) as his own first-born daughter. He broke every imaginable standard of ethics hiring his mistress, Jessica Dorrell, onto his staff to help with recruiting. Then he tried to lie after he wrecked his motorcycle riding through the Arkansas mountains with Dorrell onboard.
The truth came out, of course. Petrino lost his job and his stature as one of America's sharpest college head coaches. He couldn't even salvage a going-away settlement, thanks to a clause in his contract. And now we've learned that he was texting and/or talking to his young girlfriend incessantly for months, even dozens of times on at least one game day.
"It's halftime and we're ahead, baby, but I'd rather be snuggling with you."
Ah, so good for recruiting, fundraising, fan support, national image, corporate sponsors — all those necessities.
Many Arkansas fans initially wanted to forgive Petrino, which happens when your team went 10-3 and 11-2 the past two years with hopes for better in 2012. But after disgracing himself, the school and state, Petrino was banished. And all of Arkansas braced for more revelations, which hungry media are pursuing.
So, within one crazy year, college football has lost Jim Tressel (Ohio State), Joe Paterno (Penn State), Butch Davis (North Carolina) and now Petrino, all fired for lack of morality — not lack of victories. What does that say?
Ohio State hasn't detoured, hiring Urban Meyer (most recently of Florida) out of "retirement" to keep the Buckeyes on track, despite being stripped of a few scholarships for the next three years, and bowl eligibility this fall. North Carolina faces a similar penalty. Penn State might not endure NCAA sanctions, but the damage from its Jerry Sandusky scandal won't heal as long as his court battles continue.
We'll see how Arkansas handles its troubles (Petrino appears to have avoided NCAA violations). But one possible option would suggest a new emphasis. Arkansas' staff, hoping to stay together for at least the highly promising 2012 season, reportedly has asked the university to choose Tim Horton as interim head coach. Horton isn't known nationally, but he's an Arkansas native and former Razorback who was a three-year starter (1987-89) under coach Ken Hatfield.
Hatfield, another ex-Razorback, was Air Force's head coach before taking over at Arkansas. Horton also did his time at Air Force as an offensive assistant under Fisher DeBerry (1999-2005). The many who remember Horton from those seven seasons would not be surprised that he might help "clean up" Arkansas now.
In fact, college football needs a lot more guys like Tim Horton, and a lot fewer like Bobby Petrino.