If we've learned anything this past week, it's that for all his Xs and Os acumen, former Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino wasn't very bright in other aspects of his professional life. He clearly didn't read rule No. 6 of my
Arkansas received 159 applications for the Student-Athlete Development Coordinator job Jessica Dorrell got. Had he hired any of the other 158, Petrino could have kept his job. After sifting through the resumes of all the applicants, it's obvious Petrino could have made a great hire, kept his action on the side and -- most importantly -- kept his job. Besides, how do you not at least call back the person who sends a cover letter with the following opening sentences?
Johnson, who played his football and received his aerospace engineering degree at Tuskegee, spent his days at NASA designing abort trajectories in case astronauts had to eject during a takeoff or landing gone bad. If Johnson did his job correctly, the vacated shuttle wouldn't have landed on a populated area. "Thank God," he said, "we never had to do an abort." During his off time, Johnson volunteered as a football coach at Houston-area high schools.
He said the coaching bug bit him when he volunteered at his Brooklyn high school after he ran out of money and left Penn State. After about five years working odd jobs on Wall Street, Johnson went to Tuskegee and walked on the football team. His engineering job paid much better than any entry-level coaching job, but when NASA laid him off in advance of the shuttle program's shutdown, Johnson decided he would try to break into college football. A longtime member of the American Football Coaches Association, Johnson knows plenty of people in the business from conventions and from helping local high schoolers find scholarships. So when Johnson saw the Arkansas job posting, he figured he had nothing to lose by applying. Of course, he knows now that he didn't have the, um, special skills Petrino sought.
That realization hit him when he read a story earlier this week about the scandal. "I was one of those 159," he said with a laugh.
Johnson recently accepted an engineering job in Maryland with a Navy contractor, so he will limit his football work to volunteer coaching, he said. Besides, Johnson probably wasn't qualified for the job anyway. Neither was the Arkansas liquor store manager who also applied. But plenty of applicants were more than qualified.
Former LSU offensive lineman Ben Wilkerson and current Arkansas law student/recruiting office assistant Tiffany Fields certainly were. They were the other two applicants interviewed along with Dorrell. But Wilkerson and Fields weren't the only ones with skill sets that made them excellent candidates. Other candidates included:
• Former Kentucky and Oregon director of football operations Steve Hellyer, who had the most practical experience of anyone who applied for the job.
• Mark Ouimet, who held similar positions at Mississippi State and Michigan.
• Josh Lee, the former director of football operations at UAB, whose references include Georgia coach Mark Richt and Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart.
• Maggy Carlyle, who, while inexperienced in college football recruiting, has a wealth of complementary experience working for the San Francisco 49ers, the Pac-12, the NFL and the University of Missouri. (She also has a law degree from Missouri.)
• LaRon Black, a former Southland Conference associate commissioner (compliance) who spent several years at Prairie View A&M helping the school clean up an NCAA mess.
• Christianne Harder, a Cal grad who has worked in the recruiting offices at Stanford and Washington and who currently consults for Western Kentucky's football program.
• Zaneta Ivy, a former Memphis track athlete who received her master's at Arkansas and who has worked in the student-athlete academic advising departments at Arkansas, Utah and Florida International.
That list is by no means a complete accounting of the qualified candidates, but as you can see, Petrino had legitimate options. And some of those who applied are mad. Ivy, currently an academic coordinator at FIU, believes the hiring of Dorrell will set back women who hope to break into traditionally male-dominated sports fields.
"That's one of the barriers I'm trying to break down," Ivy said. "You don't have to sleep your way to the top. There are a lot of women who know their jobs, who do their jobs well and who just want to help the kids."
Unfortunately for Ivy, Petrino let a body part besides his brain choose who got the job. That's why Petrino is unemployed, and that's why women such as Ivy now face an even steeper climb.