Until last week, Razorback fans were anticipating this year's team winning the western division of the Southeastern Conference, tantamount to a national championship. That enthusiasm has now been sharply and sadly curbed. Does the Independence Bowl await?

On the other hand, nobody we know foresaw that the University of Arkansas would suddenly gain great esteem by openly valuing duty and honor more highly than success on the football field. Cynics, in fact, would have bet that the UA would go the other way, given a choice. But then cynics don't know value.

Coach Bobby Petrino brought Arkansas back into the national rankings, after a comparatively unfruitful period, and still greater heights seemed within reach. Then Petrino had a wreck on his motorcycle, lied that he was traveling alone when in fact a blonde athletic department employee half his age was on the back seat, and made the UA complicitous through the institution's issuance of public statements relying on Petrino's account. The coach, who is married, eventually confessed his fabrication, just before it would have been exposed by the State Police anyway, and he further owned up to having carried on an "inappropriate relationship" with the young woman. Further investigation revealed that he'd even overridden the university's normal employment procedures to get her a job with the athletic department. In his letter of dismissal to Petrino, UA athletic director Jeff Long said the woman would not have been hired had he known of her relationship with Petrino, which included a $20,000 gift from the coach so she could buy a car. Petrino, Long said, had been guilty of "a pattern of misleading and manipulative behavior."

Though it may have been surprising, Long's decision was plainly correct; he and his superiors in the UA administration are to be commended. And they are being commended, both in-state and out. Even the most loyal Hog fans seem to agree. An on-campus rally to support Petrino drew more reporters than students.

And all is not lost on the football field, not yet. The players seem a level-headed and dedicated bunch, promising the same effort without Petrino as they gave with him, and it's still true that players, not coaches, do the heavy lifting, or "blocking" and "tackling" in football terminology. Older fans remember the "do right" rule of Lou Holtz, and the famous victory that followed. It could happen again, surely. Even in the SEC. God is a Hog fan, now more than ever.

HAS ANYTHING ELSE been going on? In the U.S. Senate, Republicans and Mark Pryor defeated a bill to make rich people pay a fairer share of taxes. They could do this because the Senate now operates under procedures that deem a majority vote insufficient for passage. Thank goodness football is played under more honest rules. Touchdowns are still worth six points, no matter who scores.


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