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Which attracts more -- sentiment, scandal?

Mac Gordon

Mac Gordon

I encountered this small dilemma recently on a well-known newspaper's website. Before my eyes were two stories. I looked at both headlines, momentarily trying to decide which to read first.

There was nothing earth-shaking about the decision. It simply involved clicking on one story first, then the other. I had plenty of time for both.

Both concerned women who were employed at universities in the South. Both schools are in the Southeastern Conference, providing intrigue to my choice. Both women were leaving their jobs. One was departing on her own due to an illness, and the other was leaving due to a shocking situation that associated her with the school's head football coach.

By now you have probably figured out the names of the two women: Pat Summitt, the ultra-successful women's basketball coach for 38 years at the University of Tennessee, and Jessica Dorrell, who held her job for about 38 minutes -- actually, she had it since March 28 -- at the University of Arkansas before it became known she was Hogs' football coach Bobby Petrino's mistress.

Summit was diagnosed almost a year ago with early onset Alzheimer's. She told a news conference that she wanted to step down now to ensure the program's future viability. The UT program was a sterling success under her guidance -- the Lady Vols won eight national championships. She has been favorably compared to the man generally considered the greatest men's basketball coach ever, the late John Wooden of UCLA.

When her team didn't win the national title, the squad that did usually had to beat the Lady Vols to get the gold ball. Summitt ran a strict team regimen that might be compared with the tough-love way Nick Saban runs the Alabama football team. It works. Off the court, Summitt has been the perfectly quintessential Southern lady.

The news of Dorrell's situation came to light after she and Petrino were involved in a motorcycle accident that left Petrino, 51, bruised and battered from head to toe, but fortunately alive. The incident cost him his job at a time his team was being mentioned as possible national champions next year. The school reached a financial settlement with Dorrell allowing her to leave without being fired from her job as a fundraiser.

In olden days, Dorrell's plight might not have reached the pages of your average newspaper. Situations like that were covered up -- and even today when such events happen involving high-profile people, they deny, deny and deny some more until they are forced to give up the truth. That was the case in Arkansas.

The Petrino-Dorrell story is not a pretty one. Football fans there are angered that Petrino was fired because his next team could win it all. They seem more interested in that possibility than the fact that two of their neighbors had a serious vehicle crash and one -- Petrino -- is wearing a neck brace.

The Tennessee story is different, involving a much-beloved, iconic figure whom the sporting world adores. Everybody is pulling for Pat Summitt to have a peaceful, meaningful retirement.

And we hope Dorrell, at 25, young and motivated, will learn from her mistakes. I suspect she already has.

Mac Gordon is a retired reporter who lives near Blakely and writes an occasional opinion column for The Albany Herald.

Comments

Amazed2 1 year, 12 months ago

The contract to build this courthouse was pushed thru during the Bill Clinto administration. At the time it was the LARGEST Federal Contract ever awarded to a WOMAN OWNED MINORITY CONSTRUCTION firm in the United States.

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