Bobby Petrino is out as head coach at Arkansas.
Arkansas Vice Chancellor for Intercollegiate Athletics Jeff Long made a formal announcement Tuesday evening at a press conference on the floor of Bud Walton Arena, though rumors of Petrino's dismissal started circulating an hour earlier.
"This afternoon, I have informed Coach Petrino that his employment with the University was being terminated immediately," Long said. "He used athletic department funds to hire for his staff a person with whom he had had an inappropriate relationship. He engaged in reckless and unacceptable behavior that put his relationship in the national spotlight."
On Sunday, April 1, Petrino was involved in a motorcycle accident in Madison County. The following Tuesday he addressed the media about the incident and led the media and his bosses to believe he was the only person on the Harley Davidson. Thursday a police report revealed Petrino had not been forthcoming and that a 25-year old female named Jessica Dorrell was a passenger on the bike.
To complicate matters, Dorrell had just been hired by Petrino on March 28 as a subordinate within the athletic department. That Thursday night, Long put Petrino on paid administrative leave as he conducted his own investigation. Some media outlets put in a freedom of information request for Petrino's phone records, and the state police also conducted an investigation regarding Arkansas state police captain Lance King, who took Petrino to the hospital. On Monday, King was found to have done nothing wrong for taking Petrino to the hospital.
Another man at the scene of the accident opted to call 911 even though Petrino declined to do so before he left. That man reported there was a passenger on the motorcycle, and that ultimately led to Petrino's inappropriate relationship being discovered by the masses.
Long appointed assistant head coach Taver Johnson to continue leading Razorback spring practices during his review and has asked that he keep that role throughout the spring. Whether or not Arkansas will hire a new head coach or name a current assistant in the interim is to be determined.
"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," Long said. "We have one of the top football programs in the country, and a lot of that credit goes to Coach Petrino, but credit to that success also belongs to the student athletes in the program and the coaches and staff members that have worked hard to support them.
"I'll actually begin the search following the press conference tonight. We will maintain as we are through spring practice, which is the 21st. At that time I'll assess where we are in the search process or make a decision on an interim head coach going forward."
Arkansas fans held a support rally for Petrino Monday night. While the fans made it clear they did not support Petrino's actions, they did still support him as head coach. Fan support, however, became a non-factor when Long's review was complete. There was just too much.
Long declined to comment on Dorrell's current status but did refer to her as an employee of the athletics program.
Petrino has spoken with the team and coaches as groups and believes all coaches intent to stay with the program, including brother Paul Petrino.
Long said he knew in a very final manner only today that Petrino's time at Arkansas would be over.
Why he is out
Dishonesty - "Key individuals," including those directly involved, revealed Petrino's story did not add up.
"Coach Petrino knowingly misled the athletics department and the university about the circumstances related to his 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."
Abuse of power - Out of 159 applicants for the director of on-campus recruiting and eligibility coordinator position vacated by Dan Kabala, only three were interviewed and Dorrell was hired much faster than is typical.
"Coach Petrino's relationship with Mrs. Dorrell gave her an unfair and undisclosed advantage for a position on Coach Petrino's football staff," Long said. "Coach Petrino himself participated and reviewed the selection process without disclosing his relationship with here. That constitutes a conflict of interest under University policy."
Negative Image - Petrino's careless actions portrayed the UA in a negative light nationally.
"By itself, Coach Petrino's consensual relationship with Mrs. Dorrell prior to her joining the football staff was not against University policy. However, in this case Coach Petrino abused his authority, and over the past few weeks he made a staff decision and personal choices that benefited himself and jeopardized the integrity of the football program."
The Bonus - Long did not disclose the reason, but he said Petrino did give her approximately $20,000 and that was confirmed by both parties.
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