Matt Jones has been the online sports editor for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette since 2010. He is also a feature writer for Hawgs Illustrated magazine and is currently pursuing a Masters degree in journalism.
Messages offer insight to Petrino's final days at Arkansas
Text message dialogue between UA athletics director Jeff Long and former football coach Bobby Petrino on April 6.
FAYETTEVILLE A series of text messages between Bobby Petrino and high-ranking University of Arkansas athletic department staff members offers a glimpse into the dialogue between the two sides during Petrino's final days as the Razorbacks' head football coach.
Petrino, who was fired on Tuesday, sent several apologetic text messages during his suspension to UA athletics director Jeff Long, senior associate athletics director Chris Wyrick and UA athletics compliance director Jon Fagg. The messages were obtained Thursday through a Freedom of Information Act request.
On the morning of Friday, April 6, one day after Petrino was placed on administrative leave by Long, Petrino texted Long to say, "Jeff I appreciate how you handled last night. Let me know if we need to get together again. I'm at your disposal and will do whatever it takes to keep you in my camp and remain your coach."
Long responded 35 minutes later, thanking Petrino and assuring the former coach he was "working through the process".
Petrino texted Long again on April 7, "Hey Jeff I'm just sitting around wondering what I should be doing?? I just want you to (know) how sorry I am that this all happened!!"
While that was the last of the text message log between Petrino and Long, other messages were listed through the FOIA release.
On April 5, when a police report indicated Petrino was involved in a motorcycle accident with recently hired football staffer Jessica Dorrell, Wyrick texted Petrino to say, "Times like this prove who your friends are--I am a Petrino guy and my support of you through this will be 100% unwavering. Feel free to contact me if I can help or you need some insight."
In a response to how the day went on April 6, Wyrick texted Petrino, "From my stand point, calls and text are 10 to 1 positive. Trustees and politicos are leaving Jeff alone and that is a good thing. Those that have your back are 100 percent behind you".
Later that night, Wyrick texted Petrino asking if Long had "EVERYTHING" from Petrino's standpoint, to which Petrino responded, "Yes I believe he does".
After Wyrick offered to help Petrino "any way I can", Petrino responded, "Thank you!!! Is the mood to fire me or to keep me???"
Wyrick responded, "I can't honestly speak to (Long's) pulse on that, but my gut is he wants it to work. You have done the job and most feel you are due a mulligan. I would hope as that starts to finalize, you would be open to some PR ideas and I think could help. I will not impose those on you, but certainly would help you with that (if) called upon. (Long) has not asked me one time if I've talked to you, so it's not like his is saying this or that".
At 10:27 a.m. on April 6, Petrino texted Fagg to say, "(Jon) thanks for all your support!! Sorry I have put you in this situation!!"
The text messages also give a glimpse into contact between Petrino and Long in the days leading up Dorrell's hiring on March 28.
On March 17, Petrino texted Long to say, "The background check did not come through she said she wanted the job? Hopefully the offer letter is ready by Monday (March 19)."
Long responded the next day, "Ok congrats she will do a good job no doubt."
Long also texted Petrino multiple times on April 3 when he was released from the hospital and held a press conference at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium.
During one text, Long told Petrino, "...admire your toughness....Don't push too far. Jeff".
Long sent similar messages each of the next two days. On April 4, Long said, "Ok, take it easy, make sure you rest. Don't push (too) hard. I'll check on you later."
At 12:31 p.m. on April 5, less than three hours before Petrino informed Long of his relationship with Dorrell, Long texted to say, "Hey, don't push it, make sure you take it easy. Remember your body is recovering from trauma. I'll see (you) when I get back tomorrow Jeff".