The similarities are striking. Both men were in their early fifties with high profile jobs and strong ties to the state of Arkansas. Both were involved in extramarital affairs with women in their early twenties. Both brought enormous pain and shame upon their families and the institutions they represented. Both scandals received national attention from the news media and led to serious investigations of misconduct. Both men initially denied any wrongdoing and attempted a coverup to avoid having the relationship exposed. Both investigations clearly revealed an adulterous relationship existed.
In spite of all the similarities between the 1998 Bill Clinton-Monica Lewinsky scandal and the 2012 Bobby Petrino-Jessica Dorrell scandal, the one characteristic which stands out most has to do with the consequences these men faced as a result of their actions. Although Clinton faced impeachment charges, he was acquitted and remained in office. Petrino was not so fortunate. He was fired only months after winning the Cotton Bowl during an 11-2 season in which his only losses were against the two teams who faced each other in the National Championship Game. A fair argument could be made that, with regard to performance issues alone, Petrino was a better football coach than Clinton was a President. But the issue here is certainly not job performance.
Most of us are both college football fans and American citizens. As we try to make sense of these two strikingly different outcomes, what conclusions may we draw from this unique comparison?
First, with regard to financial compensation alone, Petrino’s $3,500,000 salary compared to Clinton’s $250,000 salary seems to indicate that our society values the coaching of college football approximately fourteen times greater than the value of leading the free world. I’m not sure that this bothers anyone, but I am sure that it should.
Second, the requirement of a Division One Head Football Coach to serve as a role model for players and fans and to represent his University well in order to promote fund raising and win recruiting battles simply cannot be overstated. Universities need their high profile Head Coaches to be men whose outward character engenders great confidence in the program and in its leadership.
Finally, it appears from the evidence given that the requirement for a leader’s character to be beyond reproach is actually greater for one of America’s Division One College Football Coaches than it is for America’s Head of State and Commander-in-Chief. Again, I’m not sure that this bothers anyone, but I am sure that it should.
If the previous observation is true, then it reveals a sad state of affairs, not only for the fine people of the Natural State, but for all of America as well.