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Jeff Long made right decision


A man begins cutting his wisdom teeth the first time he bites off more than he can chew.

—- Herb Caen,

San Francisco columnist

A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.

— Winston Churchill

I have made a number of wagers over the years based on human failings. Fortunately, I have won a majority of those bets after reporting on individuals who were weak and made bad decisions.

Reporters are often pessimistic. I plead guilty. I would have wagered the homestead last week that Arkansas head football Coach Bobby Petrino would hold onto his job with a loss of some benefits and possibly even some probation for the black eye he gave the university.

Having never met athletic director Jeff Long, I didn’t realize the man understood the definition of the word “ethics.” I was impressed several years ago when I encountered a high school football coach who could spell the word.

About the time Long opened his press conference at Fayetteville to announce his decision, I was covering a meeting at Gould in Lincoln County. Despite using a laptop computer daily and having a smart cell phone, you can forget how small our world is.

Within a few seconds of Long’s announcement, the word reached Gould and other corners of the known universe via Twitter, texting and blogging.

And in the days passed, I have yet to hear even the most rabid Razorback fan complain. They have acknowledged that the football coach lied (one suggested Petrino just “told less than the truth”) to his bosses, the public and fans, embarrassed the university and set a poor example for his players.

No one mentioned his won-loss record. A job for the girlfriend and $20,000 cash gift may have raised eyebrows, but no “we need to think this over.”

Long and the university administration reacted like they believe in the ethics standards taught in university business courses. A journalism instructor at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff assigned a class to write a report on “crisis management,” or how the Fayetteville administration reacted to the infamous motorcycle crash.

Long and the administration probably could have found a way to keep Petrino as head coach, but principle was at stake. “No single person is bigger than the team” explained Long. “Our expectations in character and integrity in our employees can be no less than what we expect of our students.”

That’s not the way it often works. The football or basketball program matters more to many than the university. The coach often has more clout than the university president and is usually paid more.

Honor doesn’t have to be sacrificed in the name of winning. We deserve better than that.

Whenever Arkansas loses a game this fall, don’t blame Long. Perhaps honor will have its just reward.

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Larry Fugate is a veteran journalist and former editor of The Pine Bluff Commercial. He can be reached by e-mail at fugatel@sbcglobal.net or at (870) 329-7010.

A man without ethics is a wild beast loosed upon this world.

— Albert Camus,

Philosopher