By Doug Russell Special to Published Apr 11, 2012 at 3:00 PM

Two weeks ago, Bobby Petrino was far and away the most popular man in Arkansas. Today, he's out on the street, perhaps never to be head coach of a major program ever again.

One month ago, Sean Payton was thought of as one of the most above-board and respected coaches in the NFL. Today, he is a disgraced symbol of a league that had never suspended a head coach for an entire season before.

One year ago, Joe Paterno was the most beloved man imaginable in college sports. Today, he is dead after one of the most stunning and complete falls from grace in history.

What it is about the powerful and respected that sometimes goes so shockingly wrong so quickly? Is it that that they have had to lie for so long as a motivational and recruiting tool that they cannot discern what is true and what is not?

In Petrino's case, his sin was ultimately hiring his 25-year old mistress and lying about it.

In Payton's case, it was being told to stop a suspected practice that was endangering the health of opponents; only to then lie about it and then continue it.

In Paterno's case it was sweeping under the rug the sins of a monster for fear it would bring disrepute upon his cherished kingdom.

Certainly there is a tight rope that coaches – in particular college football coaches – have to walk. Not only are they responsible for recruiting well and winning games, they have to make sure over 100 young men aged 18-22 obey the law, go to class, do their homework, hit the weight room, eat properly, and generally represent the university in a positive light.

Evidence will tell you that accomplishing all of these goals is an impossible task. And yet the ultimate responsibility falls on the guy at the front of the room. He gets the credit; he gets the blame; he takes the fall.

Of course all of these leaders of men are compensated extremely well for being the most recognized figure on their respective college campuses.

Wisconsin's Bret Bielema makes more than $2.5 million per year. But that's peanuts compared to other coaches around the country – some far less accomplished.

Florida's Will Muschamp made more than $3.2 million last season. Michigan's Brady Hoke pulled in almost $3.3 million. Iowa's Kirk Ferentz makes almost $3.8 million.

At Arkansas, Petrino raked in a cool $3.635 million. No wonder few noticed when he wrote out a check to Jessica Dorrell for $20,000.

We may never know the full extent of Petrino's relationship with Dorrell, but it is not unreasonable to speculate that the 25-year old stunner caught the old man's eye and he let his libido make the decisions for him. After all, theirs appears to be a relationship of convenience for both of them. He gets a hot young thing and she gets a big promotion and some spending money from her sugar daddy.

It is obvious why Petrino would want to lie about it. After all, he is married with four children. Then again, it is entirely possible that Petrino and his wife had an understanding as some couples do. After all, some of the most famous and otherwise strong women have tolerated their husband's philandering. Jackie Kennedy, Hilary Clinton, Coretta Scott King, and Princess Diana are just a few wives in history who put up with their husbands humiliating them for years, even decades.

But even if a wife will look the other way in the face of demonstrable infidelity, the equation often changes when it becomes a matter for public consumption. The simple fact is that the vast majority of society considers having a mistress on the side as an unscrupulous thing.

That she is less than half his age makes it even worse. That she is his employee and he had a direct hand in her hiring over 158 other applicants further complicates matters. That Petrino's mistress was herself engaged to be married in June to another university athletic department employee just makes your skin crawl.

But yet, Apr. 1 there they were, riding on the same motorcycle; the mid-life crisis coach and his side-piece cruising around the Arkansas countryside without a care in the world.

But here is what I don't get. How could the most recognizable man in an entire state be riding around – without a helmet – with a tall young blonde wrapped around his waist and not think something could go horrifically wrong?

The word is hubris.

After all, Bobby Petrino was supposed to be untouchable. For a fan base that is often overlooked while competing in the same conference as perennial powerhouses like Alabama, LSU, Auburn, Florida, and even Tennessee for a time, Razorbacks fans desperately crave any share of the national spotlight that they can get. Not to disparage the state itself, but there isn't a whole lot going on in Arkansas. To many that live there, the very identity of their state is how their football team performs on Saturday afternoons in the fall.

Before Petrino arrived in Dec. 2007, Arkansas football was an also-ran in the Southeastern Conference. In the 10 seasons under Petrino's predecessor, Houston Nutt, the Razorbacks went just 42-38 in conference. In bowl games, Nutt's teams were just 2-5, and never made a single appearance in the Bowl Championship Series.

And even in Petrino's first two years there was not the immediate result the fans of the program wanted, as he tried to rebuild the program in his image. But in the last two seasons, Petrino delivered. Boy did he ever.

In 2010, Arkansas earned its first-ever BCS berth when they narrowly lost to Ohio State (in what would be Jim Tressel's final game as Buckeyes coach) in the Sugar Bowl. Last year, the Razorbacks went 11-2. Their losses? Both were on the road: at Alabama and LSU; the two teams that would eventually battle it out for the National Championship.

After finishing the season ranked No. 5 in the country and having top quarterback Tyler Wilson returning, this was supposed to be the year Arkansas fans had been licking their chops for.

Upon closer examination, it looks like their deal with the Devil simply just came due.

After all, Bobby Petrino is the same man that in 2003, in his first year as Louisville's head coach, went behind his bosses backs to hold a clandestine meeting in a parked airplane to try to negotiate replacing Tommy Tuberville as head coach at Auburn. Never mind that Tuberville had hired Petrino less than two years earlier to be his offensive coordinator. There were no loyalties. Tuberville had something that Petrino wanted.

About a year later, Petrino interviewed with Notre Dame, Ole Miss, and Florida for their vacancies. When he lost out on all three of those positions, he emphatically stated "I want to make it clear that I'm not interested in any other coaching jobs, and am happy at the University of Louisville," Petrino said. "... I'm very excited about our move into the Big East, the opportunity to play in a BCS bowl game and the chance to compete for a national championship. (School president) Dr. James Ramsey and Tom Jurich, through their hard work and dedication, have made this the best job in the country. As I've stated before, Louisville is the perfect place to raise a family and I plan for all four of my children to graduate from high school in Louisville."

Petrino's new contract at Louisville (the place he called "the best job in the country") was finalized on Dec. 21. On Dec. 26 he was in Baton Rouge interviewing for the vacancy at LSU.

Fast forward to 2007, when Petrino left Atlanta without as much as a face-to-face meeting in front of his Falcons players with three games left in his only season as a NFL head coach. Many believe that stunt cost him any shot at getting another top job in the league. After his hop scotching and elusive behavior while at Louisville, few college programs will ever consider him for another head coaching position either. A major program can have its pick of the litter; and any smaller program would never feel comfortable with Petrino always looking for the next big thing.

So Bobby Petrino is out at Arkansas. And for as much as school athletic director Jeff Long went out on a limb and fired the most successful coach they have had since the legendary Frank Broyles, he saw no other way out. Whatever trust the two of them had built up was shattered beyond repair. And for what? A joyride with a young girl with her arms wrapped around you?

How pathetic.

Doug Russell Special to

Doug Russell has been covering Milwaukee and Wisconsin sports for over 20 years on radio, television, magazines, and now at

Over the course of his career, the Edward R. Murrow Award winner and Emmy nominee has covered the Packers in Super Bowls XXXI, XXXII and XLV, traveled to Pasadena with the Badgers for Rose Bowls, been to the Final Four with Marquette, and saw first-hand the entire Brewers playoff runs in 2008 and 2011. Doug has also covered The Masters, several PGA Championships, MLB All-Star Games, and Kentucky Derbys; the Davis Cup, the U.S. Open, and the Sugar Bowl, along with NCAA football and basketball conference championships, and for that matter just about anything else that involves a field (or court, or rink) of play.

Doug was a sports reporter and host at WTMJ-AM radio from 1996-2000, before taking his radio skills to national syndication at Sporting News Radio from 2000-2007. From 2007-2011, he hosted his own morning radio sports show back here in Milwaukee, before returning to the national scene at Yahoo! Sports Radio last July. Doug's written work has also been featured in The Sporting News, Milwaukee Magazine, Inside Wisconsin Sports, and Brewers GameDay.

Doug and his wife, Erika, split their time between their residences in Pewaukee and Houston, TX.