Arkansas Baptist News
The fall from grace of University of Arkansas head football Coach Bobby Petrino has dominated sports news inside and outside the state for the past several weeks.
It all started innocently enough when Petrino wrecked his Harley-Davidson motorcycle on a country road outside of Fayetteville on a beautiful Sunday evening.
I recall the day well because I had returned from an 80-mile ride myself on my own motorcycle – along some of the same types of roads Petrino was on at the time of his crash – only I was in Central Arkansas.
I remarked to my wife, Pamm, how beautiful the April 1 day was and how pleasant it was to be out riding my bike so early in the spring.
Of course, as we all now know, Petrino’s bike ride wasn’t all that innocent. Later in the week, after the head coach said he was the only one involved in the accident, it surfaced that a 25-year-old woman – whom he had hired just a week or so earlier – was with him.
Rare in major college athletics today is a sense of morality and “doing what’s right,” but Arkansas’ athletic director, Jeff Long, stepped up and showed real leadership by firing Petrino – in spite of two tremendously successful seasons that saw the Razorbacks win 21 games with only five losses.
Petrino was fired four years after building the Razorbacks into one of the powerhouse football teams in one of the toughest conferences in the country – the Western Division of the Southeastern Conference.
The Razorbacks coach betrayed his wife, his family and Long – as well as thousands of Razorback fans across the state.
And Petrino betrayed the young men who sweated, sacrificed and worked untold hours under their coach the past four years – enabling Petrino to bring success to the Arkansas football program.
A head football coach – much like a pastor of a church or leader of a denominational ministry – should work hard to always be above reproach morally and ethically and should strive to set the bar high when it comes to leadership.
While publicly Petrino has been criticized for his moral and ethical failure in this case – ultimately, it was his shortcomings in leadership that allowed all these other things to creep in.
Petrino’s epic fall from grace in Arkansas – which loved him as a football coach and for his winning ways – should serve as a reminder for all of us who hold a place of authority in the church, whether it be as pastor, church staff or volunteer leader.
It should be our goal to always demonstrate “God-driven” leadership, or otherwise fall victim to the evil one who “prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8).
Tim Yarbrough is editor of the Arkansas Baptist News. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.