Loyalty is a one way street

About three and half years ago, Mizzou alum and ESPN columnist Pat Forde wrote this piece on Bobby Petrino shortly after Petrino left the Atlanta Falcons (in mid-season!) to take the Arkansas Razorbacks football job.


In it, Forde detailed how Petrino, while at Louisville, flirted with a new job each and every offseason, vacilating between college interviews and NFL jobs before finally jumping to Atlanta-only to leave the Falcons after 13 games to head back to college.


I loved it at the time. Thought it was great, especially this graph:

Loyalty, allegiance, commitment and honesty are foreign concepts to him. It must be a sad existence.

However, it appears that Mizzou might be dealing with their own version of the Disingenuous Drifter.  Arkansas once again takes a dithering coach with a wandering eye and hires him.

L'affaire Mike Anderson 2011 is finally over. After being courted by Georgia and Oregon, he is off to Arkansas with a shiny 7 yr. deal averaging over $2.2 million a season according to reports.

I struggle with what's happening for a variety of reasons. I can understand those who lost their patience. Wandering eyes eventually lead to wandering feet, and another ungrateful coach exits stage left.

I understand that sentiment. Really, I do.

But I can't agree with it, personally.

Maybe it's because I can understand being nomadic. And this time it has to be different for Anderson, given that he spent 17 years in Fayetteville. Sure, it's not exactly alma mater calling him home (and I'm not sure if Tulsa called that he would listen anyway - maybe he would) but it's pretty damn near close to it. Six Sweet 16s, three Final Fours and one national title has to still mean something, even if the end came bitterly.

Maybe it's because I'm jaded and think loyalty in athletics is a myth. At least, from a coaching perspective.

Look at the work histories of a lot of coaches. Look at how many assistants change jobs after two or fewer years. Long-term work at a place (lasting more than a decade) is quite difficult. Sports is now, more than ever before, a results oriented business, especially in college. Do you win enough or not? Period. Dot. End of conversation. The idea of a long term commitment (with a few exceptions) is now a foreign concept. Five year plans have been shortened to four or even three years and you're out if you don't improve.

Somewhere along the line, it was determined that for "stability" and to aid in recruiting, a coach had to have a long-term deal to be able to survive and grow the program. Offer a contract for seven years and then, hey, after two years have lapsed, why not add a couple of more years as another extension because, you know, it might hurt recruiting now if I only have five years on my deal instead of seven or eight or ten.

Oh, and you are expected to be "loyal" no matter what. You are supposed to honor your contract to the bitter end. But if those contracts have no actual, tangible end in sight and are nothing but extensions upon extensions, then what is one supposed to do when a job comes open that you really want and are qualified for?

(Of course, there is also the agent at play, and Mike Anderson has one of the best (or the worst or the slimest, depending on your perspective) in Jimmy Sexton. There is very little doubt in my mind that much of this is a Jimmy Sexton production. And I do say that without any verification or "sources" to back it up. It is my opinion that if the Arkansas job hadn't come open, we probably would be going through this song and dance anyway with some other job. Maybe Tennessee? Who knows?)

You know who's loyal? Alumni and fans are the ones who are loyal. We pledge our allegiance to an institution, and no more so than in intercollegiate athletics, where team turnover is near 100 percent after five years. No more so is it about the laundry than when following college sports.

And I think we take it so personally and are so frustrated by it because WE feel the loyalty. WE love our institution. But I think unless you are an alum or have some kind of connection to a program, that loyalty isn't necessarily there. Nor, quite frankly, do I expect it from coaches.

I can't claim to know what's in Mike Anderson's heart and head. I can't claim to know if his motivation is money (though I doubt he'd admit it even if it was) or winning a national championship again. I can assume that Arkansas was always in play and was always a goal even if the last time there ended badly. It sucks for the players that are left behind and may not have a chance to play in this system and may have to learn a new style (depending on the next hire).

It hurts those of us with deep, deep allegiance to the school—those of us who are not playing on the court, but feel the thrill of victories and the pain and anguish of defeats deeply from our living rooms and dens and offices. We feel cheated. We feel lied to. And there is nothing wrong with those emotions.

Even if I, personally, don't feel the hurt.

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