Nearly two weeks ago, a gorgeous young blonde was hired onto the staff at the University of Arkansas Athletic Department. What seemed to be an innocent hiring of a former U of A volleyball player has spiraled into a scandal involving a motorcycle wreck, an alleged extramarital affair, the suspension of a winning head coach and a very disappointed Razorback Nation. An attempted cover-up and a landslide of lies and deception have transformed the once choir boy image of Coach Bobby Petrino to that of one that is reminiscent of a certain former president that had a sex scandal heavily looming over his reputation for years.
The Timeline of Deceit
On Sunday, April 1st, Arkansas head football coach Bobby Petrino was injured in a motorcycle accident about 20 miles outside of Fayetteville, in the town of Crosses, Arkansas. After the accident, a statement from the University was released indicating that Petrino was not seriously injured and more importantly, was alone:
"Coach Petrino was involved in a motorcycle accident on Sunday evening that involved no other individuals. He is in stable condition and is expected to make a full recovery. Our family appreciates respect for our privacy during the recovery and we are grateful for the thoughts of Razorback fans at this time."
This statement would prove to be untrue in the days following as the Arkansas State Police report would surface, revealing that Petrino was accompanied by a certain 25-year-old Jessica Dorrell. Not only had Petrino lied about spending the entire day with wife, Becky, but he had also lied about being alone on his fated motorcycle adventure. The cover-up would end with Dorrell’s signature in very bold black and white print.
What began as an outpouring of support from players, fellow staff and fans to the injured coach suddenly turned into shock and utter dismay within a matter of days. A man that was so private, yet seemed so very dedicated to his family and children, was now apologizing for an inappropriate relationship and attempting to conceal the truth from everyone.
Coach Petrino released the following statement:
“The state police report today provides an accurate description of my accident, which includes details that had not publically come to light prior to the report being issued. I regret that I have not publically acknowledged a passenger on the vehicle. I have been in constant pain, medicated and the circumstances involving the wreck have come out in bits and pieces. That said I certainly had a concern about Jessica Dorrell’s name being revealed. In my press conference, I referred to her simply as ‘a lady’. My concern was to protect my family and a previous inappropriate relationship from becoming public. In hindsight, I showed a serious mistake in judgment when I chose not to be more specific about those details. Today, I’ve acknowledged this previous inappropriate relationship with my family and those within the athletic department administration.
I apologize to my wife, Becky, and our four children, Chancellor (David) Gearhart, Jeff Long, the Board of Trustees, University administration, my coaching staff, student-athletes and the entire state of Arkansas. I have been humbled by the outpouring of concern and get-well wishes. I apologize to the Razorback Nation for the attention my actions have brought to the University of Arkansas and our program. I will fully cooperate with the University throughout this process and my hope is to repair my relationships with my family, my Athletic Director, the Razorback Nation and remain the head coach of the Razorbacks.”
The Contractual Question
In the 2011 season, Bobby Petrino led the Hogs to an 11-2 record and a Cotton Bowl win in the very tough Southeastern Conference. The former NFL coach joined the U of A in 2007 after leaving Atlanta midseason. Petrino re-signed with the Razorbacks in December of 2010 for seven years at an estimated $3.53 million annually.
However, his contract does include a clause that does specifically disallow him from, “engaging in conduct, as solely determined by the university, which is clearly contrary to the character and responsibilities of a person occupying the position of head football coach or which negatively or adversely affects the reputation of the athletics program in any way.”
This contractual clause brings about tremendous speculation as to whether or not Petrino will indeed continue on as the head coach of the Arkansas Razorbacks amid this scandal. The attempt and failure at covering up blatant lies not only puts the character of Petrino into question, but also places Athletic Director Jeff Long in a precarious situation if he is to remove his current suspension and allow the coach to return to his duties after the investigation. With a fanbase that is predominantly in the "Bible Belt", one must question whether the lack of morality of the situation will outweigh the need to win.
Thursday night, Athletic Director Jeff Long called a press conference to announce that he has placed Petrino on administrative leave while the situation is reviewed. While he was asked repeatedly what the future would hold for Petrino, Long would only state that he would make a decision once the review was complete.
Long did not give a specific amount of time for the review, only stating that it would be completed in an expeditious manner. In the meantime, Assistant Coach Taver Johnson has been named the interim head coach and will prepare the Razorbacks for the oncoming season.
A Team in Limbo
As more details surface, speculation swirl as to what Athletic Director Jeff Long will choose to do with Coach Petrino. If he chooses to fire him, will this team be able to move on with a new coach and succeed? If Long chooses to keep him, will the scandal only mar the upcoming season or eventually blow over and allow Petrino to do as he was hired to do, coach?
The revelations over the next few weeks should prove to be far more than interesting. With the makings of a juicy tabloid, people will be waiting to hear what will happen next. The unfortunate part of this whole thing is the innocent bystanders caught in the middle; the families, the coaching staff and the players.