Arkansas fired coach Bobby Petrino — and scathingly dressed him down for unfairly hiring his mistress and intentionally misleading his boss about everything from their relationship to her presence at a motorcycle accident that would cost Petrino his job.
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Arkansas fired coach Bobby Petrino on Tuesday — and scathingly dressed him down for unfairly hiring his mistress and intentionally misleading his boss about everything from their relationship to her presence at a motorcycle accident that would cost Petrino his job.
Athletic director Jeff Long announced his decision at a news conference and laid out a laundry list of misdeeds against the man he hired away from the NFL Atlanta Falcons in December 2007.
They included ignoring multiple chances this month to be honest with Long about a relationship that had crossed the line from infidelity into workplace favoritism.
“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, choking up at one point as he discussed telling players their coach was gone. “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.”
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The 51-year-old Petrino, a married father of four, had maintained an inappropriate relationship with 25-year-old Jessica Dorrell for a “significant” amount of time and at one point had given her $20,000, Long said.
Long would not disclose details of the payment, or when the money changed hands, but said both parties confirmed the “gift” from Petrino.
Petrino, who was fired via a letter from Long, issued a lengthy apology and said he was focused on trying to heal his family.
“All I have been able to think about is the number of people I’ve let down by making selfish decisions,” Petrino said. “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.”
Dorrell, a former Razorbacks volleyball player, worked for the Razorbacks Foundation before she was hired by Petrino on March 28, four days before the accident involving his motorcycle on a rural road.
Petrino’s injuries included four broken ribs.
Long said Dorrell was one of three finalists from 159 applicants. Petrino never disclosed his conflict of interest in hiring Dorrell or the payment, Long said.
“Coach Petrino abused his authority when over the past few weeks he made a staff decision and personal choices that benefited himself and jeopardized the integrity of the football program,” Long said.
Petrino had a 34-17 record in four seasons at Arkansas.
Long said Petrino was fired “with cause” — meaning he will not receive an $18 million buyout his contract called for — and there were no discussions about ways to keep the coach at Arkansas.
Assistant head coach Taver Johnson will lead the team through spring practice.
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