This is not one of those wild parallel reality articles; I’m not that talented. It’s my take as a faculty member on the just-concluded search for a head coach.
For those nine days, I lived in fear that somehow, Auburn would name Bobby Petrino as head football coach.
Yes, I know that most Auburn fans are glad the process is over and want to move on. I’m glad too. And it might seem that for us professors, the desire to beat a dead horse comes with the cap and gown. But I think some reflection is in order.
In my opinion, hiring Petrino would have sent the wrong message to our student-athletes, and to all of our students. The message would have been this: Doing the wrong thing is OK, as long as you win. Consequences are for losers.
In fact, I was willing to resign my position on the University Committee on Intercollegiate Athletics if the hire were made and had expressed that willingness to friends who would hold me to it.
It might not seem like a big deal; I am finishing a three-year term. But I could not have continued as a faculty member on the committee if that were the philosophy of the athletics department. Thank God it’s not.
For me, the issue was not so much Petrino’s oft-ridiculed affair with an Arkansas athletics staff member. He must bear the weight of that privately, and it looks like he will, for a long time.
It was that he created an ethical nightmare for his school, and might have violated the law, by hiring that staff member to a better-paid position on the staff of a state university. As I posted in an early tweet, any athletics director would be crazy to hire Petrino, knowing that he had done that.
And let’s not forget that within the Jetgate scandal, Petrino made his own missteps by not informing his athletics director that he was seeking the Auburn job. Obviously, that would have threatened the process’s secrecy, but once again, Petrino subverted ethical principle to his own interest.
At the NFL level, that’s another debate. I won’t talk about what happened in Atlanta. But on a college campus (and as I frequently state, this is college football) this is serious stuff.
Despite appearances, a college campus is not an FBS football factory. It is a setting where thousands of mostly-young men and women, some of them athletes, learn at a variety of levels — academic, social, and yes, ethical. They learn by observation as much as, and perhaps more than, lectures
We enforce an academic honor code, and when a student crosses that line, he or she should be prosecuted. And not just to be punished for trying to succeed by breaking the rules. The idea is for all students to recognize that there are consequences for academic dishonesty. We don’t publicly announce individual student verdicts, but they know the process is there. If there were no consequences, cheating would be even more of a problem than it is now.
But it’s hard to expect students to fear such prospects when they know that a football coach catches a break because of his winning percentage.
Critics complain that college football is out of control in so many ways. At Auburn, $11 million in buyouts to a fired coach and his staff supports the argument. An eagerness to hire a disgraced coach because of his winning percentage would have added to that perception.
For all of the heat Jay Jacobs has been catching, his record in promoting the academic welfare of student-athletes has not been mentioned. Under his leadership, our students have shined. Football player Ashton Richardson was a finalist for a Rhodes Scholarship. Soccer player Katy Frierson and diver Dan Mazziaferro were finalists for the prestigious Walter Byers Postgraduate Scholarship.
But his search committee did not hire Bobby Petrino. From the reports I see, Petrino was never a serious candidate, despite the rumors that spiked my fears.
And for that I am grateful.
Graphic: SEC Rant.
John Carvalho, associate professor of journalism at Auburn, blogs about the sports media at johncarvalhoau.tumblr.com. Find him on Twitter at @johncarvalhoau. Read his previous columns here.
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I am glad to see that I was not alone in stating my beliefs, and future actions, were Petrino to be named the next coach.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts,
John Mazzanovich says
While I won’t disagree with the thrust of your article, I will mention that Jay Jacobs initial promotion and continued employment as AD despite glaring incompetence sends a similar, if a far less subtle message: It’s who you know, not how good you are.
Steve Smith says
Great article… Apparently there were many of us having nightmares. It is interesting how the pro Petrino folks seemed to dominate the conversation. I never understood their position given the consistent pattern of improper behavior by Petrino. It would only have been a short honeymoon until he would have been back to his old tricks. In the meantime, we would have lost an image of Auburn that makes it special which would have been repeatedly discussed in the media. I am so glad to see AU stick to what really matters most. Character.
While Petrino was not my first choice, and the main reason that Mr Carvalho gives as to why we shouldn’t hire him (that he exposed Arkansas to potential lawsuits) was my major reservation, I would have taken him over Malzhan. Gus brings too many questions for me (can he recruit, can he change the culture, etc). I’ll support him, but I fear that he’ll be closer to a Hal Mumme hire than a Chip Kelly. I hope I’m wrong.
I do take issue with several of the things Steve said above. We don’t know if Petrino would have exhibit the same improper behavior. Maybe he changed? I’d like to think so. Finally, if Character really matters most, why did we fire Tuberville? Why fire Chizik? Sorry, it boils down to wins, like it or not.
Bravo!! Excellent article…my thoughts exactly. Sure, we want wins…but not at the cost of our ethics and integrity. Maybe characters doesn’t count at other places, but it’s supposed to at Auburn. And I think it did this time.
Jonathan you are so wrong.
Wins and Losses do matter, but intergrity or lack of it matters more.
CGM may be the best coach in AU long history or the worst.
Time will tell and if he wins he will coach at AU a long time.
If he loses he will be shown the door.
Petrino is radioactive, if he is so great, why did not UT, KY, or any
Arky St, Colorado even interview him?
Bryan Kelley says
I appreciate that there were others who held this same opinion. My wife and I had already decided that we would give up our four season tickets if Petrino had been hired. Petrino has never shown good character at any of his head coaching jobs and there is no reason to believe he has changed. I don’t know if Gus is the answer, only time will tell. What I do know is this, hiring Bobby Petrino would have said something terrible about Auburn and would have been a shame. War Eagle!
Well put, John. I am grateful to hear voices like yours. The idea of hiring Petrino made me sick to my stomach!
Aubiece, don’t tell me I’m wrong for expressing my opinion. Tell me you disagree, that’s fine. Tell me why you disagree, that’s fine. But have some damn respect. I can’t tell you why other schools hadn’t hired Petrino. Like I said, he wasn’t my first choice, he wasn’t even in my top 5. I do think that whereever he goes will get a good coach, and, I hope, someone who has learned some hard lessons.
And I ask you point blank, if wins and losses matter, but Integrity matters more, why fire Tuberville?
Would every one who’s raving about this hire still be raving about it if Clemson’s QB would have hit the wide open receiver in overtime, or if Mark Ingram hadn’t fumbled?
And again, I hope I’m dead wrong, but this hire just feels like we settled.
We Auburn men and women are proud of our University, and take pride in our creed, which is mentioned almost every time the Auburn football team is televised. I would like to quote one line of it “…I believe in honesty and truthfulness, without which I cannot win the respect and confidence of my fellow men. …” How can we say that we believe in this and then go out and hire someone who does not believe in it?
I support the search committee, the AD, and the President on their selection of Gus Malzahn as the head coach and leader of our football team.
Dan (not) in Manila says
I was also in the “anybody but Petrino” group. Character and the ability to win games are not competing qualities. Coaches can be fired for failing to have either, but a coach that has questionable moral failings typically leaves behind a system that is in such a mess that it typically takes years to rebuild. (See Mike Price at Alabama or Lane Kiffin at UT.)
Like I said, these are not competing qualities, but if I had to pick, I would MUCH rather have a coach that is humbled by a loss, than a coach that is humiliated because he is a loser.
The answer to your question is simple. A coach has two jobs in which he must succeed : win football games, and lead young men.
Chizik was fired because he was a historic failure at the first (probably because he was also failing at the second.) He wasn’t fired because Auburn wants to “win now” – what a joke. Chizik was fired because he presided over the worst Auburn season at least seventy years. You can’t keep your job if you do that.
Same thing with Tubby. He had two jobs and there was one which he could no longer perform. So he was fired.
Petrino would probably win football games. But whether he’s changed or not, we can’t read the Creed to our players, hire a man who embodies the opposite of honesty and truthfulness, obedience to law, and doing justly, and expect the players, students, fans, etc. to take it seriously. So he isn’t qualified to lead our young men. He would have had two jobs, and there is one which he would be unable to perform. So he wasn’t hired.
Jonathan you have every right to express your opinion.
I never said you did not.
But expressing your opionion does not make you right.
And you are WRONG about AU hiring Petrino.
Wins and losses are important but integrity trumps those…
Like a stool, any one of those legs break, stool will not work…
Same with coaching…
Even if we ignore the affair as a private matter, and discount the huge workplace liability as a consensual relationship with no real conflict of interest, we still have to address the fact that he’s never remained at any coaching job longer than 3 years. So to everyone who wants to believe he’s changed, I’ll join you in that just as soon as he keeps a job for 4 years.
Motor Cycle shop on Opelika Road would have been happy with the hire
I wouldn’t quit my job with the university because of who the football coach is. It’s your right to have your own opinion.
If people were consistent with this line of thinknig, they’d lobby to have Pat Dye’s name removed from the field since he cheated. Also they should remove David Housel’s name from the press box because of his involvement in Jet-gate. Can’t have it both ways. Everyone should be held to the same standard.
Tiger X says
Good article. I was also worried about a potential Coach Petrino hire, but I am glad to know he was never seriously considered. I suspected that would be the case, but it is nice to have some confirmation.
The SandMntTiger says
If the hiring of a football coach would cause you to quit your position with Auburn, then you don’t deserve it in the first place.
Its people like you sir, who are the ones holding Auburn back more than anyone. Your belief is soley based having your name associated with something that would be looked upon as placing winnning above all else. Well if winning isn’t the main driving force then Auburn should give up playing in the SEC considering winning is what the SEC is all about. Btw, the Auburn University that you and I both so love would be nothing like it is today if the football if it wasn’t for the FB team’s success. Sewanee?
Its not about you and your pride sir. Its about doing whats best for Auburn. And Bobby Petrino would have been very good for Auburn finacially.
“Over the last two seasons, the team’s total value has risen 59% to $89 million, eighth-highest in college football.”
Lastly, your support of Jay Jacobs is laughable.
John Carvalho says
Just so there is no mistake, I did not say I would have resigned my position with the University. The position I was referring to resigning involved the Committee on Intercollegiate Athletics. And I will continue to serve on that.