Petrino suspended following crash revelations
Arkansas football coach Bobby Petrino (left) was placed on paid administrative leave on Thursday by UA athletics director Jeff Long (right) after Petrino lied about details surrounding his motorcycle accident last Sunday. (AP Photos)
FAYETTEVILLE Bobby Petrino has been placed on paid leave following the release of a police report that revealed that he had a 25-year-old female employee with him on his motorcycle during a Sunday crash.
Speaking at a late night press conference Thursday, Arkansas athletics director Jeff Long said he will conduct a review of Petrino. The review will determine whether he will remain employed by the university.
Petrino has a contractual termination clause for “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.”
Taver Johnson, who was hired as linebackers coach in January, will serve as interim coach in Petrino's absence.
"Any time we have a coach who makes a misstep, it's disappointing to me," Long said. "We have high expectations of every coach and staffer."
Long said he spoke with Petrino shortly before a state police report was released Thursday afternoon and informed the coach of his decision later Thursday night.
Jessica Dorrell, who was hired last week to an administrative role within the Arkansas football department, was on the back of Petrino's motorcycle when it crashed Sunday in Madison County, according to the accident report released by the Arkansas State Police.
The report contradicted a statement made by the Petrino family through the University of Arkansas athletics media relations office on Monday stating the Razorbacks' football coach was the only individual involved in the accident. Petrino crashed his Harley-Davidson around 6:45 p.m. Sunday on Arkansas 16 near the rural community of Crosses, about 23 miles southeast of Fayetteville.
"He admitted that he had not been totally forthcoming and forthright with me about the accident," Long said. "He shared with me the reasons why he didn't share the information."
Petrino didn't speak Thursday night, but did release a statement through the university's media relations office.
"The state police report today provides an accurate description of my accident, which includes details that had not publicly come to light prior to the report being issued," Petrino wrote. "I regret that I have not publicly acknowledged a passenger on the vehicle.
"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.
"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."
According to the report, Petrino and Dorrell were picked up by Benjamin Adam Williams, Jody Diane Stewart and Williams' 12-year-old son, all of Ozark. Petrino and Dorrell were transported to the intersection of Huntsville Road and Crossover Road in east Fayetteville, where Dorrell departed the vehicle.
Petrino was met there by Capt. Lance King, an Arkansas state trooper who serves as his security detail during football season, and transported to Physicians' Specialty Hospital in Fayetteville. King is also the commander of Arkansas State Police Troop L, based in Springdale.
Petrino suffered four broken ribs, a neck sprain and a cracked vertebrae in the accident, he said Tuesday. Dorrell was not injured, according to the report. Neither was cited by police for the accident.
Dorrell is a former volleyball player at the UA and had previously worked for The Razorback Foundation Inc., the university's private fundraising arm. She was hired as student-athlete development coordinator for football on March 28.
Petrino is 34-17 in four seasons at Arkansas, increasing his win total in each season at the school. He led the Razorbacks to an 11-2 record in 2011, tying the school record for most wins in a season and finishing the year ranked No. 5 nationally.
Since his hiring, Arkansas' football program has seen a significant spike in donation levels, allowing for the construction of a $40.35 million operations center to be completed next year and a proposed future expansion to the north side of Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium. The program's assistant coaches have also received pay raises following each of the last two seasons.
The Razorbacks were ranked by Forbes magazine as the eighth-most valuable college football program last year at more than $80 million.
Petrino agreed to a seven-year contract in December 2011 that pays him $3.56 million annually. The contract has a mutual buyout clause that began at $18 million for the first two years of the agreement, but it can be waived for breach of contract.
“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.”