Bobby Petrino, head football coach at the University of Arkansas, crashed his motorcycle on April 1st. He probably wishes the whole event had been an April Fool’s Day hoax. Pictures taken at Petrino’s initial press conference after the accident looked like a cautionary tale for wearing a helmet while riding a motorcycle. As more information of the incident bubbled to the surface, the helmet proved to be a minor item on a long list of cautionary tales. lessons
Initial reports from the Petrino family stated that the football coach was alone on the motorcycle. The state troopers investigating the incident later reported that Petrino was accompanied by a young woman. This woman was not his wife, the mother of his four children. The young lady, a former volleyball player at Arkansas, was half Petrino’s age. Faced with these uncomfortable facts, Petrino admitted to a “previous inappropriate relationship.” Further investigation by the University of Arkansas revealed that Petrino’s motorcycle buddy had recently been given a job in the football program and $20,000 from Petrino’s personal funds. Ten days after his motorcycle tipped in a “gust of wind,” Bobby Petrino was relieved of his coaching duties at the University of Arkansas.
Perhaps the saddest part of the Petrino scandal is the familiarity of the story. This time the perpetrator was a powerful college football coach but it could have been a politician, business man, or even a pastor. It seems that each day the news report brings another appalling account of corruption, infidelity, deceit and abuse of power. As those who represent God to the world, these appalling accounts should stir us with moral outrage. The scandals should lead us to speak about the decline in morality. We should continue to call society back to decency and ethical behavior as modeled by Christ, but on the way to our soapboxes we must also consider how we protect ourselves from succumbing to the moral decadence that we decry.
You are probably thinking, “That could never happen to me. Only really bad people do something like that!” We assume that those caught in scandals are an evil and highly immoral lot. We presume that the really bad people could easily be picked from a lineup and that we would never be confused with their kind. Unfortunately, our assumptions and presumptions are flawed. Do we really think that Petrino came to the realization one day that he was a really bad person and then set out to engage in an inappropriate relationship, all the while plotting to abuse his power and lie about it?
Isn’t it more plausible that the scandal that culminated in Petrino’s dismissal started out with one poor choice or one boundary overlooked? Isn’t it much more likely that the coach let his personal accountability grow slack over time? Isn’t it probable that if asked years ago, Petrino would have said, “That could never happen to me”?
Paul warned the church at Corinth with these words, “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12). As you reflect on the Petrino scandal, take some time to consider the strength of your moral foundation. Use the following questions as a guide:
To whom are you accountable in your ministry?
How can you strengthen your personal times of prayer?
How can you strengthen your personal Bible reading?
Who prays for you?
What practices protect you from potentially compromising situations?
To whom are you accountable in your personal life?
What are you doing to strengthen your marriage?
What can you do to renew yourself physically, emotionally, and spiritually?
Kristopher Barnett is a graduate of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary with a Master of Divinity in Biblical Languages (2001) and a Ph.D. in theology with a concentration in preaching (2008). His dissertation was A Historical/Critical Analysis of Dialogical Preaching. His undergrad work was completed at Angelo State University in San Angelo, Texas with a B.A. in Communication (1997).
Prior to joining the Christian studies faculty at Anderson University, Dr. Barnett served as pastor to three different churches; Forestburg Baptist Church (TX), Ridglea West Baptist Church (TX) and most recently, East Pickens Baptist Church (SC). Prior to pastoral ministry, he served as youth minister at two churches and did a youth internship at another.
Kris Barnett is the author of What Now?, a companion guide to the Bible. He is a member of the Evangelical Homiletic Society and has twice presented papers at the EHS conference (Wake Forest, NC and Birmingham, AL). Dr. Barnett enjoys filling the pulpit for local churches and serving in an interim role for churches seeking a pastor.
Dr. Barnett is married to Kelly, who is a graduate of ASU with a Bachelor of Science and Master of Science in psychology. They have four children, Kenzie, Karsen, Noah, and Kassie.