The most important part of any tragedy is learning the lesson each carries with it. When Bobby Petrino was fired as the head football coach at the University of Arkansas on Monday afternoon, dozens of people were affected by his stupid and callous behavior, the most prominent being the very people he loves the most in the whole world - his four children.
You already know what happened. Petrino was injured in a motorcycle accident, lied about the sordid details and was soon hemmed in by a scandal that not even his promising tenure as the Razorbacks’ Redeemer could outweigh. The university absolutely had no choice in what was the right thing to do and athletic director Jeff Long didn’t mince words as he did exactly that during a terse press conference that night.
What remains is the lesson. You should never tell a lie. You should never get involved in an inappropriate relationship. You should never try to cover up anything. You should never hire any employee based on favoritism and/or emotion. You shouldn’t cheat on anything or anybody. You should never talk yourself into believing you are invisible.
And - best of all - you should conduct yourself in a way where you’ll never, ever have to wake up one morning and have your four children read what Bobby Petrino said just before he called the moving van. I wish every man, woman and child would read the statement he issued through his agent.
He should have had the courage and guts to face the TV cameras himself, fitting after embarrassing as many people as he did, but I believe his forlorn remorse should still be read in full. It is a brilliant lesson of something none of us ever wants to happen. It is also a chilling reminder that when the ole Devil creeps into our lives, Satan never leaves as quietly as he came.
Here is Bobby Petrino’s statement hours after he was fired on Monday:
“The simplest response I have is: I'm sorry. These two words seem very inadequate. But that is my heart. All I have been able to think about is the number of people I've let down by making selfish decisions. I've taken a lot of criticism in the past. Some deserved, some not deserved. This time, I have no one to blame but myself.
“I chose to engage in an improper relationship. I also made several poor decisions following the end of that relationship and in the aftermath of the accident. I accept full responsibility for what has happened.
“I'm sure you heard (athletic director) Jeff Long's reasons for termination. There was a lot of information shared. Given the decision that has been made, this is not the place to debate Jeff's view of what happened. In the end, I put him in the position of having to sort through my mistakes and that is my fault.
“I have hurt my wife Becky and our four children. I've let down the University of Arkansas, my team, coaching staff and everyone associated with the Razorback football program. As a result of my personal mistakes, we will not get to finish our goal of building a championship program.
“I wish that I had been given the opportunity to meet with the players and staff prior to this evening's press conference and hope that I will be given the opportunity to give my apologies and say my goodbyes in person. We have left the program in better shape than we found it and I want the Razorback Nation to know that is my hope that the program achieves the success it deserves.
“My sole focus at this point is trying to repair the damage I've done to my family. They did not ask for any of this and deserve better. I am committed to being a better husband, father and human being as a result of this and will work each and every day to prove that to my family, friends and others.
“I love football. I love coaching. I, of course, hope I can find my way back to the profession I love. In the meantime, I will do everything I can to heal the wounds I have created.
“I want to thank Chancellor Gearhart, Jeff Long, the Board of Trustees, the university administration, faculty, staff, students, alumni and fans for the opportunity to serve as the head football coach at the University of Arkansas for the past four years. I was not given an opportunity to continue in that position. I wish that had been the case, but that was not my decision. I wish nothing but the best for the Razorback football program, the University and the entire Razorback Nation."