How can anyone who has followed the career of Bobby Petrino really be surprised by the narcissism he has displayed this past week? The apex of the football rivalry between WVU and Louisville was the year Pat White and Steve Slaton rose to national prominence by leading a furious comeback and beating in overtime a ranked Louisville team (with Michael Bush in the backfield). Bobby Petrino was the coach, then. It made the victory even sweeter.
While at Louisville, Petrino was cocky, flippant with the media, arrogant in his demeanor, and a career opportunist. I’ll spare the historical details, which were covered well in a weekend column by the NY Times. Unfortunately, this is normative and some of what we’ve come to expect from our superstar coaches. If they win, who gives a crap how they treat those around them, how loyal they are to their employers, or what the track record of their personal life is.
"What they do after they go home is none of my goddamn business…or yours!
I lamented during the last round of WVU football coaching hires that the current staff was amazingly talented, likely to take us to new heights of success, and equally as likely to be out the door to greener passages ASAP. I was summarily told to quit my bitching. Off the field issues, perceived arrogance toward the media, track records of short stints here and there be damned. It’s none of our business. Right? "Just shut up and enjoy the trip." Okay. I’ll enjoy the exciting (albeit short) roller coaster thrill ride.
But let’s not kid ourselves into thinking that the behaviors of college coaches neither reflect poorly on the university nor negatively affect the school’s athletic department. If Petrino is fired because of his dalliances, it will cost Arkansas untold millions as they recover from the crash (and I’m not talking about his motorcycle). When certain people and personalities skyrocket to success, they’re often destined to plunge to earth equally as fast. Universities would be wise to remember this in their zeal to get to the top of the athletic heap in a hurry.
I wasn’t surprised by Petrino’s tumble from his lofty perch. Pride comes before the fall. It shocks me when it doesn’t happen faster to the compulsively driven, self-centered, multi-millionaire coaches of our era. Call me sentimental or silly, if you must; maybe you’ve even caught me on a day of being self-righteous. I mean, I’ve never made millions or played in front of millions, so I might be as big a narcissist as any other man if given the chance.
But with each "Rich Fraud" or "Bobby Petulant" episode that I watch unfold, I do find myself longing for the days when it was the norm for the Don Nehlens of the world to couple winning with honor and thought of coaching someplace in terms of the legacy they left behind.