Bobby Petrino fired at Arkansas
Successful four-year tenure ends in wake of fallout from motorcycle accident and decision to "knowingly mislead" Arkansas officials.
Bobby Petrino had the support of the Arkansas faithful, a 21-5 record the past two seasons, and another potential BCS team coming together in 2012. It still hasn't been enough to save his job in the fallout from his recent motorcycle accident.
Petrino and Razorback athletic director Jeff Long met throughout Tuesday afternoon and Long made the announcement official at a Tuesday night press conference: after four years and a 34-17 record, Petrino has been fired.
An emotional Long said that Petrino had "knowingly misled" the Razorback athletics department and the Arkansas public, having concealed both the details of the accident and -- more importantly -- his relationship with Jessica Dorrell, the recently hired 25-year-old Arkansas football administrative staffer.
"He made the decision, a conscious decision, to mislead the public on Tuesday, and in doing so negatively and adversely affected the reputation of the University of Arkansas and our football program," Long said. "In short, coach Petrino engaged in a pattern of misleading and manipulative behavior designed to deceive me and members of the athletic staff, both before and after the motorcycle accident."
Long said Petrino had "abused his authority" in hiring Dorrell without disclosing their relationship, which he specified had existed for a "significant" amount of time.
Petrino was terminated "with cause," denying him the $18 million buyout included in his contract.
"I have no one to blame but myself," Petrino said in a statement issued late Tuesday evening. "I chose to engage in an improper relationship. I also made several poor decisions following the end of that relationship and in the aftermath of the accident. I accept full responsibility for what has happened."
Petrino subtly suggested, however, that -- responsible or not -- he did not agree with Long's decision.
"I’m sure you heard Jeff Long’s reasons for termination," he said. "There was a lot of information shared. Given the decision that has been made, this is not the place to debate Jeff’s view of what happened."
Petrino had been placed on administrative leave Thursday in the immediate wake of the public release of the Arkansas State Police report concerning his April 1 motorcycle accident. Though Petrino had told Long that he had been alone when he wrecked his motorcycle, repeated that account at a Tuesday press conference, and allowed the university to issue a press release to that effect, the police report indicated that Petrino had been accompanied by Dorrell, a former Arkansas volleyball player.
Long said that Dorrell's relationship with Petrino had given her an unfair advantage in being hired over the other 158 applicants for her current position. Long also revealed that Petrino had given Dorrell a $20,000 cash gift, though he declined to say why Petrino had done so.
Petrino issued a statement Tuesday apologizing for his "previous inappropriate relationship" with Dorrell and expressed his "hope" he would be retained as Razorbacks head coach. For his part, Long said he would "get all the facts" before making a final decision.
"I had a conversation with coach Petrino today that concluded my review," Long said, adding that -- contrary to multiple reports -- "there was no negotiation about ways he could remain as football coach."
As per Petrino's contract, he was notified of his termination by a letter.
Dorrell has made no comment since the police report became public, having gone into "safe mode" in the words of a friend. Long said that her current employment status "is a personnel matter that I can't discuss at this moment."
Assistant head coach Taver Johnson will continue to serve as the Razorbacks' interim head coach.
Petrino's statement also included an apology to his family and others, which reads in part:
"The simplest response I have is: I’m sorry. These two words seem very inadequate. But that is my heart. All I have been able to think about is the number of people I’ve let down by making selfish decisions ...
"I have hurt my wife Becky and our four children. I’ve let down the University of Arkansas, my team, coaching staff and everyone associated with the Razorback football program. As a result of my personal mistakes, we will not get to finish our goal of building a championship program. I wish that I had been given the opportunity to meet with the players and staff prior to this evening’s press conference and hope that I will be given the opportunity to give my apologies and say my goodbyes in person ...
My sole focus at this point is trying to repair the damage I’ve done to my family. They did not ask for any of this and deserve better. I am committed to being a better husband, father and human being as a result of this and will work each and every day to prove that to my family, friends and others."
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