The Morehead News


April 13, 2012

Winning isn’t the only thing in sports, really?

April 13, 2012 —     Bobby Petrino, the highly successful football coach at the University of Arkansas, was fired this week for lying about his girlfriend and a motorcycle accident.

    He had finished four great seasons with the Razorbacks after leaving the Atlanta Falcons of the NFL who earlier poached him from the University of Louisville.

    Since Arkansas fired him for cause, he likely won’t collect a dime from his multi-million dollar contract.

    Petrino’s foolish mistakes followed the sad tale of Joe Paterno, legendary football coach at Penn State, who lost his job in the wake of a scandal involving one of his assistant coaches and allegations of sexual abuse of young boys.

    That tragedy was followed soon thereafter by the death from cancer of Paterno, a living legend long revered as a symbol of integrity.

    Another football coach thought to be untouchable, Jim Tressel of Ohio State, was canned 11 months earlier for trying to hide improper benefits given his players by boosters.    

    His missteps cost him millions and now he has a minor position on the staff of the Indianapolis Colts of the NFL.

    It’s remarkable when you realize that less than a year ago all three of these men were Top 25 coaches.

    They were at the helm of big time football programs expected by their fans to compete for national championships each season. Paterno and Tressel had already won national titles.

    In Petrino’s case, the athletics director pulled the trigger on his dismissal, a courageous action at a school returning 16 starters on a team that was 11-2 last fall.

    The fallout from Petrino may affect others at UA who knew about his pretty, 25-year-old pal who had been hired on his staff and given a yet-unexplained bonus of $20,000.

    In Tressel’s case, the athletics director also lost his job. The collateral damage was even greater at Penn State where the fallout eventually resulted in dismissals of the president, a vice president over athletics and the athletics director.

    Vince Lombardi is credited with making the statement that winning isn’t everything in sports, it’s the only thing. He later said he meant to say that the will to win is the most important.

    Regardless, the attitude that winning is the only objective has become engrained in our sports culture.

    Coaches and institutions have been publicly humiliated and financially penalized for their “win at any cost” approach to breaking the rules or personal misbehavior.

    Do we dare to hope that the sacking of Petrino, Paterno and Tressel means that winning isn’t really everything?

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