Notes connect dots for Petrino, Dorrell

By: Chris Branam , Matthew Harris
Published: Friday, April 20, 2012
Former football Coach Bobby Petrino is shown last year with Athletic Director Jeff Long (left) at the Broyles Athletic Center on campus in Fayetteville.
Photo by William Moore
Former football Coach Bobby Petrino is shown last year with Athletic Director Jeff Long (left) at the Broyles Athletic Center on campus in Fayetteville.

— In his final meeting with Bobby Petrino, Arkansas Athletic Director Jeff Long gave his football coach a chance to state why he should keep his job after trying to hide his affair with a subordinate, according to documents released Thursday by the university.

Long began the meeting by informing Petrino that he had cause to terminate his contract, but Long told Petrino that he hadn’t made a decision.

“I have tried to move as quickly and thoroughly as possible, and am still looking for ways you can remain our coach,” Long wrote in his notes from the meeting, underlining the word “remain.”

Inside the Petrino Crash

PETRINO STATEMENT: “I was informed in writing today at 5:45 p.m. that I was being terminated as head football coach at the University of Arkansas. 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’ve taken a lot of criticism in the past. Some deserved, some not deserved. This time, I have no one to blame but myself." CONTINUE READING HIS STATEMENT

Long wrote, “This is your opportunity to share your side of the story. [The] purpose of this meeting is to allow you to respond to grounds I believe exist to fire you.”

If Petrino had a response as to why he should keep his job, Long’s notes don’t reflect it.

Long decided to fire Petrino the afternoon of April 10, saying Petrino had created a conflict of interest when he hired Jessica Dorrell and that his actions left the university vulnerable to a sexual harassment lawsuit.

Those statements were in the dozens of pages of notes taken by Long and Jon Fagg, the athletic department’s compliance director, during Long’s five-day investigation after putting Petrino on administrative leave April 5. Long and Fagg were looking into Petrino’s actions after his April 1 motorcycle accident.

Dorrell, the department’s new student-athlete development coordinator and a former UA volleyball player, was with Petrino when he crashed his motorcycle in Madison County, but Petrino failed to disclose that fact to Long, until minutes before the accident report was made public April 5 by the Arkansas State Police.

The handwritten notes were released along with Petrino’s personnel file, in response to a Freedom of Information Act request.

According to Long’s notes, Petrino detailed how the affair with Dorrell began last year and the events leading up to the accident.

Petrino said it was Dorrell who approached him about the coordinator job, according to Long’s notes.

In his notes, Long wrote in clear language that he intended to remind the coach that morning how he hadn’t disclosed his relationship with Dorrell and that she was with him at the time of the accident.

“You knew when you hired her,” he wrote. “You knew on Sunday. You knew when I visited you in hospital. You knew on Tuesday when I told you I was going to be out of town Wed/Thurs.

“Before Jessica was hired,” Long continued. “When we discussed you hiring her you knew you had an affair. Knew you gave her 15K gift.”

Long said during a news conference after firing Petrino that the coach had given Dorrell $20,000, although the notes reveal that there could have been multiple gifts.

Dorrell, who started March 23, resigned Tuesday, agreeing to a settlement that will pay her nearly $14,000.

Long said in an April 10 news conference that Petrino had failed to disclose his relationship with Dorrell, 25, in handpicking her over 158 other applicants for the $55,735-a-year job.

On April 12, Petrino, 51, notified Long that he wouldn’t appeal his termination, thus giving up any claim to an $18 million buyout that was in his contract under which he was paid $3.1 million last season. Petrino, who coached Arkansas for four seasons, led the Razorbacks to a 21-5 record over the past two years.

Fagg’s notes from the April 10 meeting with Petrino — their second with the coach — listed several points to cover.

Long’s notes indicate Petrino told him that when he and Dorrell went for a motorcycle ride out to Madison County on April 1, they were no longer involved romantically.

“He always told [Dorrell he] would take her for a ride on the bike,” according to Long’s notes, followed by the phrase, “they rode out to lumber yard before turning around.”

Fagg wrote in large letters at the bottom of one page, “If the relationship was over, why did you get on the motorcycle with her?”

Fagg’s notes stated that Dorrell “could have seen the relationship continuing if the accident hadn’t occurred.”

THE AFFAIR

Both administrators’ notes shed light on the length and nature of Petrino’s relationship with Dorrell.

According to Long’s notes, Petrino said they became friends who “talked a lot” during Razorback Foundation events.

Fagg wrote that Petrino said he and Dorrell started having lunch during the football season and in October, she asked, “Are you ever going to kiss me?”

The notes show that Petrino said the affair ended in early February, after a trip to Little Rock for the football program’s event showing off its letters of intent received from recruits Feb. 2.

Petrino and Dorrell remained in constant contact during the fall and winter, exchanging roughly 300 phone calls and more than 4,300 text messages between his university-provided cell phone and her personal cell phone.

According to notes from his interview with Dorrell, Long learned Petrino gave $15,000 to Dorrell the week of March 23.

In that same interview, Dorrell said Petrino told her to contact Chris Bunch, a general manager at Fayetteville Auto Park, for a “good deal on sign and trade” for a new vehicle.

To disguise the source of the money, Dorrell told her fiancee Josh Morgan that the money was a “bonus” for joining the football staff, according to Long’s notes.

Yet, Mark Robinson, director of football operations, said there was “no advance to help with the car,” according to Long’s notes.

Fagg wrote from an April 6 meeting with Dorrell, “intimate started Septemberish,” followed by the phrase “handful of times.”

Fagg put a star next to the phrases “last encounter about signing day” and “No gifts prior to hiring or post.”

“He wanted her to earn the job,” Fagg wrote.

In the second Petrino interview, Fagg wrote about the gift the coach made to Dorrell: “$15,000 — Christmas gift — was actually $20K. Withdrew it over Christmas.”

Then he writes, “It was after Little Rock that they decided they shouldn’t be intimate — remain friends.”

According to Fagg’s notes, either he or Long asked Petrino at least two times in their meetings with the football coach if he had had other affairs.

The only note that indicates a response from Petrino is written by Fagg: “Nothing out there — with other relationships or other inappropriate behavior.

“He is working on his relationship with Becky,” Fagg wrote, in a reference to Petrino’s wife.

DORRELL’S HIRING

The notes indicate Petrino emphasized that he did not make the decision to hire Dorrell, although documents released by the university April 13 show Petrino recommended her for the position March 19, and Long offered her the job March 20.

Petrino told Long that Robinson and Andy Wagner, who oversees the team’s video operations,“independently came up with Jessica as a finalist,” according to Long’s notes.

According to Fagg’s notes from an interview with Dorrell on April 6, she said that she had approached Petrino about the job.

And in his notes from an April 9 meeting with Sean Rochelle, an associate director at the Razorback Foundation, Fagg wrote under the heading “Relationship”: “Called him ‘Sunday’ from airport in Texas to tell him about the job — that she was applying.”

That’s followed with the notes, “She knew [who] the other candidates were? [Rochelle] inferred that it was going to be hard to disappoint Coach Petrino.”

In the final interview with Petrino, Fagg wrote, under a heading titled, “JOB,” that Petrino reiterated that it was Dorrell’s idea to apply for the job and not the other way around.

“She approached him. Thought she would be good,” Fagg wrote. Then, he wrote, “Understood they would definitely have to stop.”

Sports, Pages 17 on 04/20/2012

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