Petrino’s phone logs over 300 Dorrell calls
4 within hour of accident report’s release
University of Arkansas Chancellor G. David Gearhart addresses the UA faculty senate on Wednesday. He declined to speak about Bobby Petrino, but he praised Athletic Director Jeff Long.
Records for the cell phone issued to fired University of Arkansas football Coach Bobby Petrino show calls made between him and Jessica Dorrell less than an hour before the Arkansas State Police released a report on their motorcycle crash.
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According to UA records obtained under the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act, more than 300 phone calls and 4,300 text messages were exchanged between Petrino’s university-issued cell phone and Dorrell’s personal cell phone from September to April 5, the day Petrino was placed on paid administrative leave.
News organizations asked for the records from September forward.
The records show a call from Petrino’s cell phone to Dorrell’s cell phone at 2:41 p.m. on April 5, less than an hour before the accident report was scheduled for public release.
Three calls from Dorrell’s phone were then made to Petrino’s phone over the next 50 minutes, including a two-minute call at 3:31 p.m., a minute after the report was made public, the phone records reveal.
That call was made about 15 minutes after Petrino called UA Athletic Director Jeff Long to tell Long that Dorrell was with him when he crashed and that they had had a “previous inappropriate relationship.”
It was also the last documented phone communication between the phones used by Petrino, 51, and Dorrell, 25.
Petrino hired Dorrell as the football program’s student athlete development coordinator on March 28. Records for her university cell phone were unavailable. Dorrell’s personal cell phone number was listed on the accident report and could be seen in Petrino’s phone records.
Tuesday evening, Long terminated Petrino with cause, which means the university does not intend to pay the $18 million buyout in Petrino’s contract. A clause in the contract allows UA to dismiss him on the basis of his conduct and solely at the university’s discretion.
Records show a 10-minute call at 3:24 p.m. and a six-minute call at 3:39 p.m. on April 1, the day of the 6:30 p.m. motorcycle crash.
The contents of the text messages were not revealed, but the records show that the last text message from Dorrell’s phone to her boss was at 12:28 p.m. on April 2, the day after the accident. There were seven texts from her phone to Petrino’s that day, the records show.
At 4:05 p.m. on April 2, a phone call was made from Petrino’s phone to Dorrell’s, and a minute later, an incoming call on his phone from Dorrell’s phone lasted 22 minutes, according to the records.
The records also showed that a text message was made from Dorrell’s phone to Petrino’s at 8:20 p.m. on Jan. 6, as the Hogs were playing Kansas State in the Cotton Bowl, according to the records.
On Petrino’s birthday, March 10, there was a threeminute phone call starting at 3:43 p.m.
John Diamond, UA’s chief spokesman, said Long took the phone records into account when he decided to fire the coach.
“His decision reflected a recognition that there was a relationship that existed prior to Coach Petrino approaching him about hiring Jessica Dorrell,” said Diamond, UA’s associate vice chancellor for university relations.
At a news conference Tuesday night, Long said Petrino demonstrated a pattern of manipulative and deceptive behavior in trying to cover up his relationship with Dorrell. That included the coach’s multiple opportunities to be forthcoming about the crash, Long said.
Petrino abused his authority in handpicking Dorrell for her job over 158 other applicants, Long said. He said Petrino gave Dorrell an unfair and undisclosed advantage over other applicants for her job, which pays $55,735 annually.
Petrino “used athletic department funds to hire, for his staff, a person with whom he had an inappropriate relationship,” Long said.
Diamond expanded on that comment Wednesday, saying that Long was referring to Dorrell’s salary as “athletic department funds.”
Dorrell, who worked previously for the Razorback Foundation, an independent nonprofit group, is still a UA employee, Diamond said.
Also, Dorrell and Petrino acknowledged that Petrino had given her $20,000 at some point during their relationship, Long said.
“Jeff Long believes that the money was given to Jessica Dorrell prior to the accident,” Diamond said.
At the news conference, Long declined to divulge how long Petrino and Dorrell were in a relationship, but said, “It had been a significant period of time.”
Petrino’s contract stipulates that he has five days to appeal his firing, either through a committee or directly to UA Chancellor G. David Gearhart.
Gearhart delivered a scheduled presentation on enrollment to the university’s faculty senate on Wednesday, but he told the senate that he couldn’t comment on Petrino’s termination because of the potential appeal.
“I hope you are as proud of Jeff as I am,” Gearhart said, inducing applause.
Dorrell, who played volleyball at UA from 2004-07, was one of three finalists interviewed for the athletic department position, Long said, adding that he doesn’t know how long the job was advertised but that it was “shorter than normal” under the university’s affirmative-action hiring process.
In a March news release on the athletic department’s website, Dorrell’s responsibilities included organizing “the recruiting process for the football team, including initial eligibility for each incoming student-athlete.”
Dorrell graduated from UA in 2008 with a bachelor’s degree in finance and marketing, and she completed her master’s in business administration at the university in 2010, the release states.
At the Razorback Foundation, Dorrell oversaw the planning and execution of the Red Tie Salute to Excellence, an event honoring Razorback athletes for their performance in the classroom and on the field.
According to a 2007 biography on the Razorbacks volleyball Web page, the 5-foot-11 Dorrell graduated from Aledo High School, outside of Fort Worth, in 2004.
POLICIES AND LAW
UA has two policies in its handbook that apply to consensual relationships among its employees, Diamond said.
The policies don’t prohibit consensual relationships, but do put a supervisor on notice that he will be held to a higher level of accountability than any subordinate with whom he becomes involved.
They also require written notification to the supervisor’s boss when such a relationship exists, along with planned steps to minimize any conflicts, a response time from the boss on “any proposed remedial actions within five additional working days,” and an appeal process that would involve a chancellor-appointed committee.
The university’s sevenpage “Sexual Harassment” policy contains a “Consensual Relationships” section that reads in part:
“University faculty, administrators, and other supervisory staff should be aware that any sexual involvement with their students or employees could subject them to formal action if a sexual harassment complaint is subsequently made and substantiated, and that they bear the greater burden of responsibility should it be proven that the power differential between them made the relationship other than fully consensual.
“Even when both parties have consented to a relationship, it is the faculty member, administrator, or supervisor who may be held accountable for unprofessional behavior,” according to the section.
The harassment policy then states that when a consensual relationship between a supervisor and a subordinate, or between a faculty member and a student, exists, the campus’ “Conflicts of Interest and Commitment” policy must be followed.
“Situations that have the appearance of, potential for, or involve actual conflicts of interest or commitment must be reported in writing to the employee’s appropriate supervisor,” the latter policy says.
Petrino did not follow the school’s conflict-of-interest policy, Long said Tuesday.
According to Arkansas State Police reports, Dorrell was a passenger when Petrino ran his Harley-Davidson Road King off the road about 6:30 p.m. April 1 while trying to negotiate a curve on Arkansas 16 in Madison County.
Petrino suffered serious injuries and was rushed from the scene by an Ozark couple who happened upon the accident. He was later transferred to a car driven by Arkansas State Police Capt. Lance King, who drove Petrino to a Fayetteville hospital. At the accident scene, Petrino declined two motorists’ offers to call 911.
Petrino made a conscious decision to lie to UA officials and to the public when he held a news conference April 3 and said he was alone during the crash, Long said. Petrino had multiple opportunities to be forthcoming and instead knowingly misled Long and others, Long said.
UA issued an erroneous statement after the accident saying that no one but Petrino was involved in the crash.
“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.
Long’s review of Petrino’s actions began last Thursday after Petrino phoned him to say he had lied about being alone in the motorcycle accident. Petrino admitted lying about 20 minutes before state police released the motorcycle-accident report that included a statement from Dorrell and identified her as a passenger.
In a report released Monday about King’s actions regarding the accident, King acknowledged that he had phoned Petrino to let him know when the accident report would be made public.
Under Petrino’s leadership, the Razorbacks reached heights in the national rankings not seen in decades, and the team played in a Bowl Championship Series game for the first time in 2011.
UA is raising money for a $40.35 million football operations center set to open in 2013 adjacent to Reynolds Razorback Stadium. Brad Choate, UA’s vice chancellor for university advancement, said the university has raised $34 million toward its goal.
John Erck, director of development for the athletics department, said there might be a fundraising boon for the department in light of the feedback he had received Wednesday.
“I’ve talked to quite a few people, and the support for what Jeff did last night and his leadership ... for doing the right thing when it was hard to do, that certainly is going to help us,” Erck said. “It’s pretty hard to question his leadership and where his heart lies.”
Assistant head Coach Taver Johnson, the team’s linebackers coach, has been appointed interim head coach. Long said he expects the current staff to carry through with spring practice, which ends April 21, after which he’ll decide whether to continue with an interim coach or hire someone before fall football season.
A HIGHER STANDARD
Former UA Chancellor John A. White said he “fully supports” Long’s decision.
“I believe universities must hold employees to a higher ethical standard than other institutions,” said White, who returned to teaching in 2008 and is a distinguished professor of engineering at UA.
“We must model exemplary behavior,” White said. “Otherwise, we would be sending mixed messages to our students. I thought the process Jeff used was perfect for the situation.
“Everyone with whom I have talked, including faculty, students, alumni and supporters of the university, has great respect for Jeff and how he handled a very difficult situation,” he said.
David Gay, chairman of UA’s faculty senate, said Long “supported the integrity of the university” in his decision.
“I would say that he did act in an admirable manner,” said Gay, professor of economics in the Sam M. Walton College of Business.
Neil Allison, an associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry, said Long’s action was “the right thing to do.”
Allison, a member of a faculty senate athletics committee, said an athletic department representative was at the group’s scheduled meeting Friday to update its members, less than 24 hours after Long placed Petrino on paid administrative leave.
“The tenor was that they really would like to be transparent, as much as they could, without infringing on people’s privacy at the time,” Allison said. “It was very aboveboard. It was a good meeting.”
Information for this article was contributed by Bill Bowden, Tracie Dungan and Tom Murphy of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
Front Section, Pages 1 on 04/12/2012