Last Sunday Arkansas football head coach Bobby Petrino was taken to the hospital with broken ribs and cracked neck vertebrae after crashing his motorcycle about 20 miles outside of Fayetteville. What was originally treated as a joke on the internet, quickly turned to concern after Coach Petrino’s press conference on Tuesday. Thursday, that concern morphed into shock.
Earlier during the day, the police report from the crash was released revealing that Petrino had a female passenger with him on his motorcycle. That passenger was not his wife but instead 25 year old Jessica Dorrell, a former Arkansas volleyball player who was hired by Petrino just days prior. To throw another wrench into the mix, Dorrell is engaged to Josh Morgan, Arkansas’ Director of Swimming and Diving Operations.
Petrino was not present at the 9:45 (local time) press conference, but released a statement through the school stating:
“The state police report today provides an accurate description of my accident, which includes details that had not publically come to light prior to the report being issued. I regret that I have not publically acknowledged a passenger on the vehicle. I have been in constant pain, medicated and the circumstances involving the wreck have come out in bits and pieces. That said I certainly had a concern about Jessica Dorrell’s name being revealed.
“In my press conference, I referred to her simply as ‘a lady.’ My concern was to protect my family and a previous inappropriate relationship from becoming public. In hindsight, I showed a serious mistake in judgment when I chose not to be more specific about those details. Today, I’ve acknowledged this previous inappropriate relationship with my family and those within the athletic department administration.
“I apologize to my wife, Becky, and our four children, Chancellor (David) Gearhart, Jeff Long, the Board of Trustees, University administration, my coaching staff, student-athletes and the entire state of Arkansas. I have been humbled by the outpouring of concern and get-well wishes.
“I apologize to the Razorback Nation for the attention my actions have brought to the University of Arkansas and our program. I will fully cooperate with the University throughout this process and my hope is to repair my relationships with my family, my Athletic Director, the Razorback Nation and remain the head coach of the Razorbacks.”
Around 10:00, Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics Jeff Long met with the media to provide a status update on the information released regarding Petrino. Long said
“At about 8:30 I informed coach that given this information, the freshness of the information, and the short period of time that I’ve had the information that I was going to put him on administrative leave while I take the time necessary to review this personnel matter”
This is not the first time controversy has surrounded Petrino. After 20 years of various assistant coaching jobs (both NCAA and NFL), Petrino finally got his first shot as a head coach in 2003, returning to Louisville where he was offensive coordinator in 1998.
After his first season with the Cardinals, Petrino met with Auburn officials (a claim he originally denied) about replacing his former boss, Tommy Tuberville who he was offensive coordinator for in 2002. Petrino reportedly apologized to Tuberville for “meeting with those people” and was quoted in the Montgomery Advertiser as saying “I’m a young coach…I made a mistake.”
According to Yahoo! Sport’s Pat Forde, in 2004 Petrino interviewed for the Notre Dame job and had discussions with Florida and Mississippi about their head coaching positions. In 2005 interviewed for the Oakland Raiders position after denying any interest in coaching in the NFL.
In July 2006 Petrino signed a 10-year, $25.6 million contract with Louisville to stay on as head football coach, making him one of the highest paid coaches in the college ranks. The deal included a one million dollar buyout clause.
Six months later Petrino was announced as the head coach of the Atlanta Falcons. With three games left in the 2007 season and a 3-10 record, Petrino infamously quit the Falcons and was hired by Arkansas as the new head coach, where he has remained since.
To put it mildly, Petrino is not well liked by many fans – both college and NFL. He has been called a liar, and his loyalty has come into question throughout his career. Ironically, in August 2010 Petrino indirectly wound up getting a reporter from KAKS 99.5 FM, Renee Gork, fired for wearing a hat of her alma mater the University of Florida to a press conference. The incident also resulted in Ms. Gork receiving death threats from fans despite sending a letter of apology to Petrino.
After a rough start, the Razorbacks have a 21-5 record over the last two seasons, including a 29-16 victory over Kansas State in the highly anticipated 2012 Cotton Bowl.
Will that record be enough to save Petrino’s job, or will the University of Arkansas wash their hands of the coach who has brought both wins and controversy to Fayetteville?
Bobby Petrino’s extra-marital affairs are his personal business, but when he hired the woman in which he had a “previous inappropriate relationship”, Arkansas can exercise the right to execute a dismissal based on Petrino’s contract under section 14 (f), page 18 which states:
Otherwise engaging in conduct, as solely determined by the University, which is clearly contrary to the character and responsibilities of a person occupying the position of Head Football coach or which negatively or adversely affects the reputation of the University or UAF’s athletics programs in any way.
Prior to his hiring Arkansas should have had knowledge of Petrino’s history of indiscretions, or at the very least were aware of the situation in which he became their head coach.
Now it is time for the University of Arkansas to make a decision. The administrative leave is a start. The University will have to weigh out what is worth more to them – wins or their reputation. This could very well be the end of Petrino’s “mistakes” either by lesson learned or by termination.