The Morality Clause, How Generating Revenue Streams Trump Marital Fidelity.

If I had any doubt that NCAA scholar athletes should get paid, the latest case of University of Arkansas football coach Bobby Petrino has erased any second thoughts.  Lets consider the known facts of the Petrino case and how the decisions being made by the University of Arkansas are driven by cost analysis.


Here are the facts of the case:

University of Arkansas Coach Bobby Petrino was driving his 2012 Harley Davidson Motorcycle this past Sunday April 1, 2012 and was involved in a crash.

Once the initial 911 call was made, in which two people were reported on the motorcycle is when the scandal started to take shape.  The original 911 callers denied that there were two people on the motorcycle.  The second person on the motorcycle with the 51-year-old Petrino was former Arkansas volleyball player and current football program employee Jessica Dorrell, who is 25.

At a Tuesday news conference Petrino  who is married with four children, didn’t mention he was riding with another passenger.  In addition the University of Arkansas Athletic Department issued a press release quoting Petrino’s family stating “no other individuals” were involved. Petrino said that he had spent Sunday with his wife, Becky, at a lake and was going for an evening ride.

On Thursday the Arkansas State Police released the details of their investigation of the accident.  Shortly before the report was released, Petrino contacted Arkansas Athletic director Jeff Long and admitted he was with Dorrell during the crash.  Late Thursday Petrino also admitted an inappropriate relationship with Dorrell.  The University of Arkansas held a second press conference Thursday and announced that Petrino was being put on paid administrative leave.

Now Petrino’s fate rests on how Athletic director Jeff Long evaluates the situation.  The “Morality Clause” in Petrino’s contract states:  “engaging in conduct, as solely determined by the university, which is clearly contrary to the character and responsibilities of a person occupying the position of head football coach or which negatively or adversely affects the reputation of the (university’s) athletics programs in any way.”  The quick translation of this clause is that any action Petrino takes that negatively affects revenue streams beyond what the football team can generate will end in termination of the coach.  In this case Petrino has two major problems:

1. He wasn’t truthful with his superiors about the accident and lied about it publicly,

2, Petrino hired Jessica Dorrell  to work under his supervision in the football office. If a “previous inappropriate relationship” with Petrino did indeed lead to her hiring, that’s bad news for everybody involved.

So what will be the end result of this situation?  If we look back at a similar situation involving a coach’s morality clause, Rick Pitino, the University of Louisville‘s men’s basketball coach was involved in an extra marrital affair in 2003.  In addition to the affair, Pitino paid Karen Cunagin Sypher $3,000 to cover medical costs for an abortion.  In the end the University of Louisville administration decided that Pitino would keep his job. A decision that largely can be attributed to Pitino’s ability to produce winning and revenue generating basketball teams.

The same can be said about Bobby Petrino.  Since his arrival in Fayetteville, Arkansas has risen to prominence on the national college football scene and has begun constructing a new $43 million football facility.  If the University’s decision is financially based, Petrino should survive these egregious actions.  His ethical reputation may be ruined but his production on the field is unquestioned.


When thinking about this situation as an Entrepreneur two potential scenarios come to mind:

1.  When should you cut a customer loose?  (remember not everyone can be your customer).  It is likely you have encountered a demanding customer that you can never satisfy.  The combination of the time, effort and resources devoted to a dis-satisfied customer can quickly become a losing proposition.  Knowing when to let a customer go can be a key decision that influences your company’s outcome.


2.  When should you part ways with an employee?  (remember everyone is dispensable)  Even a well-meaning loyal employee can pick up bad habits and engage in unproductive work related behaviors.  Analyzing the costs associated with an employee and understanding the potential implications, both financial and the affect on customer good will is a necessary skill for an entrepreneur to engage in.


2 responses

  1. My entrance to the “real” working world was a rude awakening. Within weeks of my employment it came out that my boss was having an affair with one of my peers, had gotten her knocked up, left the company to save his marriage and promoted her. I’m glad to see U of A takes these matters more seriously than my former employer

    1. Shannon,
      I have had similar experiences. I am glad morality won out at least in this instance. Thanks for your comment.

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