FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Arkansas fired coach Bobby Petrino on Tuesday, publicly dressing him down for unfairly hiring his mistress and intentionally misleading his boss about everything from their relationship to her presence at the 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 against the man he hired away from the Atlanta Falcons four years ago.
Petrino, a married father of four, had 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. He would not disclose details of the payment, but said both parties confirmed the “gift.”
Dorrell, a former Razorbacks volleyball player, worked for the Razorbacks Foundation before she was hired by Petrino on March 28. Long said she was one of three finalists out of 159 applicants and got the job after a time frame Long said was “shorter than our normal affirmative action hiring process.”
Petrino, 51, never disclosed his conflict of interest in hiring Dorrell or the payment, Long said.
And he ignored multiple chances to simply come clean.
“He made the decision to mislead the public, (and it) adversely affected the university and the football program,” Long said, choking up at one point as he discussed telling players that their coach was gone. There was a “pattern of misleading and manipulative behavior to deceive me.”
In a statement issued Tuesday night, Petrino says he has “no one to blame by myself.” He said he chose to engage in an improper relationship and then made “several poor decisions” following the end of that relationship.
It was an abrupt ending for Petrino, who had built Arkansas into a Southeastern Conference and national power, 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 and that no one was more important than the program itself.
Long said Petrino was fired “with cause” – meaning he will not receive a multimillion-dollar buyout – and there were no discussions about ways to keep Petrino at Arkansas.
Petrino finishes his tenure at Arkansas at 34-17.
The April 1 accident left him with four broken ribs, a cracked vertebra in his neck and numerous abrasions on his face. What he failed to mention about the crash was the presence of Dorrell.