FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. - Arkansas fired football coach Bobby Petrino Tuesday and scathingly dressed him down for hiring his mistress and intentionally misleading his boss about their secret relationship that was laid bare by her presence at a motorcycle accident that ultimately cost him his job.
Athletic director Jeff Long announced his decision at an evening news conference and laid out a stunning laundry list of misdeeds by the man he hired away from the Atlanta Falcons four years ago.
They included ignoring multiple chances over the past 10 days to come clean to Long about the relationship that had crossed the line from infidelity into workplace favoritism.
“He made the decision, a conscious decision, to mislead the public on Tuesday, and in doing so negatively and adversely affected the reputation of the University of Arkansas and our football program,’’ Long said, choking up at one point as he discussed telling players that their coach was gone. “In short, 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.’’
The 51-year-old Petrino, a married father of four, maintained an inappropriate relationship with 25-year-old Jessica Dorrell for a “significant’’ amount of time and at one point had given her $20,000, Long said.
Petrino issued a lengthy apology and said he was focused on trying to heal his family.
“All I have been able to think about is the number of people I’ve let down by making selfish decisions,’’ he said. “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.’’
Dorrell, a former Razorbacks volleyball player, worked for the Razorbacks Foundation before she was hired by Petrino March 28, four days before their accident on a winding rural road. Long said she was one of three finalists out of 159 applicants and got the job after a time frame he said was shorter than usual.
Petrino never disclosed his conflict of interest in hiring Dorrell, Long said.
“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,’’ Long said.
Petrino has built Arkansas into a Southeastern Conference and national power over four seasons, including a 21-5 record the past two years. But Long made it clear that the success on the field was overshadowed by repeated deceptive acts.
Long said Petrino was fired “with cause’’ - meaning he will not receive the $18 million buyout his contract called for.
Long said he met with Petrino Tuesday morning to inform him there were grounds for termination and that the coach was “concerned’’ about that. Long sent Petrino a letter Tuesday afternoon to formally notify him he had been fired.
In his statement, Petrino said he and his staff had left Arkansas in better shape and wished for its success.
“As a result of my personal mistakes, we will not get to finish our goal of building a championship program,’’ he said. “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.’’