University of Arkansas Athletic Director Jeff Long fired Bobby Petrino Tuesday saying that no single individual is bigger than the team, the Razorback football program, or the University of Arkansas.
During a Tuesday evening press conference, Long reported the results of an investigation into events prior to and following Petrino’s April 1 motorcycle accident in which 25-year-old Jessica Dorrell was a passenger.
The investigation revealed that Petrino had an intimate relationship with Dorrell which gave her an unfair and undisclosed advantage over 158 applicants for a job on Petrino’s football staff. The investigation also revealed that Petrino gave Dorrell $20,000 prior to recommending that Long hire her.
Another key factor, Long said, was that Petrino knowingly mislead the university, the media and the public about the circumstances surrounding the accident.
“Coach Petrino’s conduct regarding his account of the accident jeopardized the integrity of the football program,” Long said. “He made a choice to return to practice on Tuesday, to hold a press conference, and to demonstrate his physical resiliency and command of his program, all the time failing to correct the initial report that he was the only person involved in the accident. He made a conscious decision to speak and mislead the public on Tuesday. In doing so, he negatively and adversely affected the reputation of the University of Arkansas and our football program.”
Long said University of Arkansas employees can be no less than what is expected of its students.
“Our expectations are character and integrity and our employees can be no less than what we expect from our students,” Long said. “No single individual is bigger than the team, the Razorback football program, or the University of Arkansas.”
Patrino was in the fourth year of a seven-year contract with the university. His annual salary was more than $3.5 million.
Long said a search for a new coach will begin immediately. Assistant head coach Taver Johnson has been named interim head coach.
Full text of Long’s statement:
“Last Thursday night, I met with you to share information that I had learned just hours earlier that Coach Petrino had not been forthcoming with me and with you about the circumstances of his motorcycle accident.
As you know, I placed Coach Petrino on administrative leave while I reviewed his contract related to the accident. I assured him and all of you that I would approach this task fairly and thoroughly. Since that time, I have spoken with key individuals who were involved in the accident and in what occurred afterwards, his passenger on the motorcycle, the individuals who transported him to Fayetteville and to the hospital, and several people who spoke with Coach Petrino before and after the accident.
I reviewed the manner, timing, and the extent to which Coach Petrino shared information about the accident, both with me and with others, and to whom he was accountable. That includes among others, the members of the football program, our supporters, student-athletes, faculty, staff, and alumni of this university, and the public at large.
My review raised several concerns which led me to look beyond the accident itself. That included the professional and personal relationship he had with his passenger, Jessica Dorrell, the process and circumstances that influenced his decision to hire her as a direct report member of his staff and his candor and behavior as a member of my staff.
Here are the key findings of my review:
Coach Petrino knowingly misled the athletics department and university about the circumstances related to this accident. He had multiple opportunities over a four-day period to be forthcoming with me. He chose not to. He treated the news media and the general public in a similar manner. Coach Petrino’s relationship with Ms. Dorrell gave her an unfair and undisclosed advantage for a position on Coach Petrino’s football staff. She was one of 159 applicants for the job and Coach Petrino himself participated in the review and selection process without disclosing his relationship with her and that constitutes a conflict of interest under university policy.
During my review of this matter, Coach Petrino informed me that he had given a large sum of cash, some $20,000 to Ms. Dorrell. Coach Petrino, however, failed to disclose this information to me prior to his recommendation to hire her into the football program.
Coach Petrino’s conduct regarding his account of the accident jeopardized the integrity of the football program. He made a choice to return to practice on Tuesday, to hold a press conference, and to demonstrate his physical resiliency and command of his program, all the time failing to correct the initial report that he was the only person involved in the accident. He made a conscious decision to speak and mislead the public on Tuesday. In doing so, he negatively and adversely affected the reputation of the University of Arkansas and our football program.
By itself, Coach Petrino’s consensual relationship with Ms. Dorrell prior to her joining the football staff was not against university policy. By itself, it’s a matter between individuals and their families. However, in this case, 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. In short, Coach Petrino engaged in a pattern of misleading and manipulative behavior designed to deceive me and members or the athletics’ staff both before and after the motorcycle accident.
He used athletic department funds to hire for his staff a person whom he had an inappropriate relationship. He engaged in reckless and unacceptable behavior and put his relationship in the national spotlight. Coach Petrino’s conduct was contrary to character and responsibilities we demand of our head football coach. In fact, that is the very language that is included in his contract that he signed at the University of Arkansas
Consequently, this afternoon, I informed Coach Petrino that his employment with the university was being terminated immediately.
I’ve spoken with assistant head coach Taver Johnson and asked him to continue the responsibilities for the football program administrative operation through the completion of spring practice April 21.
Now, I realize this decision may not sit well with some Razorback fans here in the state of Arkansas and across the country. We have one of the top football programs in the country and a lot of that credit goes to Coach Petrino but credit for that success also belongs in large measure to the student-athletes in the program and to the other coaches and staff members who have worked hard to support them.
I met with the football team a short time ago and informed them of my decision. I shared with them (Long choking back tears and pauses to compose himself) shared with them my disappointment in having to make a difficult decision. I asked them to try to remain focused on their academics and finishing spring practice. I’m committed to providing them with the leadership befitting of our mission to develop student-athletes to their fullest potential through intercollegiate athletics.
It’s been the primary obligation we have to each of them and to each of the more than 460 student-athletes in our program. We are an educational institution with more than 23,000 students; we have high standards, a national reputation as one of the best public institutions in the country.
Our expectations are character and integrity and our employees can be no less than what we expect from our students. No single individual is bigger than the team, the Razorback football program, or the University of Arkansas.
I assure you we will seek a head coach that possesses the expertise, leadership skills, and character to maintain Razorback football as one of the nation’s elite programs.We will maintain a program of student-athletes and coaches that all of Arkansas and Razorback fans across the nation will be proud.”
Full text of Petrino’s statement released after Long’s press conference:
“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 by myself.
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.
I’m sure you heard Jeff Long’s reasons for termination. There was a lot of information shared. Given the decision that has been made, this is not the place to debate Jeff’s view of what happened. In the end, I put him in the position of having to sort through my mistakes and that is my fault.
I have hurt my wife Becky and our four children. I’ve let down the University of Arkansas, my team, coaching staff and everyone associated with the Razorback football program. As a result of my personal mistakes, we will not finish our goal of building a championship program. I wish that I had been given the opportunity to meet with the players and staff prior to this evening’s press conference and hope that I will be given the opportunity to give my apologies and say my goodbyes in person. We have left the program in better shape than we found it and I want the Razorback Nation to know that is my hope that the program achieves the success it deserves.
My sole focus at this point is trying to repair the damage I’ve done to my family. They did not ask for any of this and deserve better. I am committed to being a better husband, father and human being as a result of this and will work each and every day to prove that to my family, friends and others.
I love football. I love coaching. I of course hope I can find my way back to the profession I love. In the meantime, I will do everything I can to heal the wounds I have created.
I want to thank Chancellor Gearhart, Jeff Long, the Board of Trustees, the university administration, faculty, staff, students, alumni and fans for the opportunity to serve as the head football coach at the University of Arkansas for the past four years. I was not given an opportunity to continue in that position. I wish that had been the case, but that was not my decision. I wish nothing but the best for the Razorback football program, the University and the entire Razorback Nation.”