Over the last ten days, the motorcycle accident involving former University of Arkansas (“UA”) Head Football Bobby Petrino and a companion has dominated sports-related media. The story culminated with the dismissal of Bobby Petrino earlier this week. UA Athletics Director Jeff Long was placed in an awkward position. He was forced to allow a coach to openly and publicly defy his trust or terminate a coach who has brought UA back to national prominence. After reviewing the facts and information, Jeff Long decided to terminate Bobby Petrino with cause, which means Bobby Petrino will not be afforded the $18 million identified as liquidated damages in his contract.
Bobby Petrino’s contract states he may be terminated with cause if he “negatively or adversely affects the reputation of the (UA) athletics program in any way.” Jeff Long publicly stated “[C]oach Petrino engaged in a pattern of misleading and manipulative behavior designed to deceive me and members of the athletic staff, both before and after the motorcycle accident…. He made the decision, a conscious decision, to mislead the public on Tuesday, and in doing so negatively and adversely affected the reputation of the University of Arkansas and our football program.”
In the last couple of years, several coaches and athletics administrators have been terminated for cause for violating a morals clause in their contract This is not the first time in recent years that a coach or administrator has attempted to cover-up an extramarital affair when confronted by the police. As we have seen time and time again, it is extremely important to be truthful and honest from the beginning. Otherwise, a coach or administrator will spend weeks and months trying to continue a lie that becomes disjointed and tangled. Of course, being truthful may have other ramifications that may affect home life and professional interactions.
In an investigation of this kind, what information is available? The easiest source of information for a university conducting an investigation is to review university issued telephones and the records they hold (i.e., text messages, emails, photographs, etc.) and obtain the same from the cell phone provider. Now, some are brazen enough to post information on Twitter and Facebook. Additionally, the institution can look to emails sent to and from the individuals involved from institutional computers and email accounts. This can be handled by the IT department without requiring an IT professional to get out of his/her chair. This information is also subject to an open records request. Externally, the police department will have records that are available to the public (in certain circumstances documents can be withheld while an investigation is pending). Thus, the institution will have access to 911 records, police reports, and other information generated by police. Although involved individuals may request that a police officer not note the presence of a certain person or make an arrest, the officer ninety-nine times out of a one hundred will note all individuals present and involved. In fact, it is their job to do so. In short, the information is readily available and easily located.