FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — The scandal surrounding Bobby Petrino has divided Arkansas fans, with many supporting the embattled Razorbacks coach.
Petrino was put on paid leave last week after he didn’t tell his boss right away that a 25-year-old female football program employee was riding with him during a motorcycle accident. The 51-year-old Petrino, who is married with four children, also admitted to an inappropriate relationship.
Kevin Trainor, a spokesman for athletic director Jeff Long, said the investigation was “ongoing” Monday.
On Monday, a person familiar with the investigation confirmed Petrino’s “previous inappropriate relationship” was with Jessica Dorrell, the former Arkansas volleyball player he was riding with.
Bo Mattingly, a sports radio host syndicated throughout the state, said he has fielded a steady mix of pro- and anti-Petrino callers, with many feeling Arkansas “shouldn’t put up with this” and others who believe “we can’t do any better for a coach.”
“Most people acknowledge that it’s a bad deal, but the majority of calls we get are people trying to come up with a way to keep him, rationalizing in their own mind,” Mattingly said.
Petrino backers started a Facebook page called “Team Save Coach Petrino” and rallied Monday night on the Arkansas campus. The group passed 17,000 supporters by evening.
About 200 supporters showed up in The Gardens, a popular tailgating spot. Matt Couch, one of the rally organizers, was pleased with the turnout.
“We’re not condoning what he did morally,” Couch said. “We are disappointed in him, but he’s still our football coach and no one’s perfect. … I wouldn’t ask him for marriage counseling, but at the same time we’re supportive of him and we want him to do well.”
Another Arkansas fan, Jimmie Wilson, and her husband, Steve, drove an hour to attend the rally and support Petrino. Jimmie Wilson said she didn’t feel bad for Dorrell, saying, “I haven’t heard her story, but she made a choice.”