Bobby Petrino: A Timeline of Arkansas Coach from Falcons to Firing
A little over four years after he arrived at the University of Arkansas amidst controversial circumstances, Bobby Petrino is out as the head football coach of the Razorbacks due to controversial circumstances.
As you've no doubt heard by now, Arkansas fired Petrino on Tuesday, just days after he was placed on paid administrative leave after the university found out that Petrino had lied about his recent motorcycle crash. ESPN's Joe Schad was the first to report the news, and it was subsequently confirmed by Arkansas AD Jeff Long in an emotional news conference.
Petrino did his best to keep his relationship with Jessica Dorrell a secret, but he failed. He has paid for his lies with his job.
But how did it come to this?
That's kind of a long story. Here's a timeline of Petrino's career at Arkansas.
December 2007: Petrino Quits Atlanta Falcons, Accepts Arkansas Job
Petrino's first season with the Atlanta Falcons in 2007 wasn't going so well. The Falcons lost six of their first seven games under his watch, and Petrino decided he'd had just about enough in early December.
One day after the Falcons were beaten at home by the New Orleans Saints on Monday Night Football, it was announced that Petrino had quit his post to take the head coaching job at Arkansas.
"Today was a day of decision," Petrino said, via the Associated Press. "It was difficult on one side, very easy on the other. It was difficult to leave Atlanta, the staff, players, fans. The timing of it probably is the thing that made it most difficult. Coming to Arkansas was the easy part."
It actually wasn't that difficult for Petrino to leave Atlanta's players. He decided to let them know he was leaving by distributing a uniform letter that let them know he appreciated their hard work.
"It got to the point where guys really didn't care if he left or not," said then-Falcons running back, according to USA Today. "But the way he decided to leave, to me, was just not right."
August and September 2008: Petrino's Arkansas Career Starts with a Pair of Wins
Petrino's career as the head coach of the Razorbacks got off to a good start in 2008.
Arkansas won its first game of the season against Western Illinois by the final of 28-24. The Hogs were down by a touchdown in the fourth quarter, but two late touchdowns from quarterback Casey Dick gave the Hugs a nifty comeback win in Petrino's debut.
A week later, against Louisiana-Monroe, the Hogs got a late touchdown pass from Dick to D.J. Williams to secure yet another comeback victory, 28-27.
Two games into Petrino's first season, things were looking up.
September to November 2008: Arkansas Stumbles Down the Stretch
The Razorbacks were unable to sustain their hot start in 2008. The tough opponents started coming, and Arkansas was completely overmatched.
After starting the season 2-0, the Razorbacks stumbled to the tune of a 3-7 finish, which included blowout losses to Alabama, Texas and Florida.
However, it wasn't all bad. Petrino scored his first SEC victory when his Razorbacks beat Auburn on the road in October, and the Razorbacks finished the season by knocking off the LSU Tigers in Fayetteville.
So heading into 2009, the vibes really weren't all that bad.
2009 Offseason: Highs and Lows for Petrino
Petrino was a man on a mission following the 2008 season. He went out and drew a lot of top recruits to Arkansas, ultimately ending up with a recruiting class that Rivals.com deemed to be the 16th-best class in the country.
It wasn't all good, though. In March, quarterback Ryan Mallett was arrested for public intoxication. Because Mallett was the team's likely starter for the 2009 season, the situation looked bad for Petrino.
According to USA Today, Petrino said he was disappointed with Mallett.
"All members of the Razorback football team have a responsibility to conduct themselves in an appropriate manner on and off the field," he said.
2009 Season: Hogs Go Bowling
Unlike the 2008 season, Petrino and the Razorbacks did not get off to a strong start in 2009. They won their first game against Missouri State, but then lost four of their next six.
However, Arkansas turned a corner in late October. Starting with a blowout win over Eastern Michigan, the Hogs would go on to win four games in a row to earn bowl eligibility.
Despite a season-closing loss to LSU in overtime, Arkansas found itself in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl against East Carolina. The game went to overtime, and Arkansas won it, 20-17, thanks to a field goal from Alex Tejada.
"We beat them. That's what it is all about. I'm not sure who outplayed who, but we won the game," said Petrino, according to the Associated Press.
So once again, Arkansas went into the offseason with some positive buzz.
2010 Preseason: High Expectations
Petrino wasn't quite as successful on the recruiting trail as he was in 2009 when the 2010 offseason rolled around, but he didn't need to be. He had a good group of players lined up for 2010 season, and the feeling was that it was time for the Hogs to make a move.
Unfortunately, Mallett ran into trouble again, this time breaking his foot (see ESPN.com report) during offseason conditioning drills. He was unable to return to practice until early August, less than a month before Arkansas was scheduled to open the season.
Nevertheless, the experts liked Arkansas' chances, as the Hogs debuted at No. 17 in the AP's preseason Top 25.
2010 Season: Arkansas Makes Good on the Hype
When Arkansas hired Petrino, it was hoping he would lead the school to SEC relevance, and hopefully, a BCS bowl as well.
The Razorbacks' dreams came true in 2010.
The Hogs started with three straight dominant victories against Tennessee Tech, Louisiana-Monroe and Georgia, climbing up to No. 10 in the AP poll in the process.
Arkansas ran into trouble against defending champion Alabama and then dropped a barnburner to Cam Newton and the eventual champion Auburn Tigers, but it would close the season on a six-game win streak. Most notably, the Hogs finished the season by beating an LSU team that was ranked No. 5 at the time.
It all added up to a 10-2 regular season, and the Hogs were eventually selected to go to the Sugar Bowl.
“We’re very, very proud to be playing in the Sugar Bowl,” said Petrino, according to the Fayetteville Flyer. “I’m very proud of our football team. I think we’ve had a great year.”
January 2011: Sugar Bowl
The Ohio State Buckeyes ran into some trouble due to the now-infamous memorabilia scandal before the Sugar Bowl, but the NCAA ultimately ruled that Terrelle Pryor and others were eligible to play.
That proved to be Arkansas' doom. Pryor amassed well over 300 total yards in the Sugar Bowl against the Hogs, and his dominant first half put the Hogs in a hole that they would not climb out of.
But the Hogs had their shot. They had the ball late in the game with a chance to score a go-ahead touchdown, but Mallett threw an interception to a defensive end.
Ohio State won the game, 31-26.
Several months later, Petrino voiced his frustration about having to play an Ohio State team that should have been a few players short.
"There's no question that I don't understand how they were eligible to play in the game," Petrino said, according to USA Today. "I just don't, and I never will.
"They (the NCAA) kind of changed the rules for that bowl game."
2011 Season: Another 10-Win Season for the Hogs
Despite losing Mallett to the NFL draft, hopes were high for the Hogs as they sped towards the 2011 season. They started at No. 15 in the AP Top 25, and some in Fayetteville expected the Hogs to make a run at a national championship.
Alabama put those plans in doubt when it once again beat Arkansas in late September, but the Razorbacks had little trouble recovering from that loss. They would go on to win their next seven games, setting up a huge showdown with No. 1 LSU in late November.
LSU easily handled Arkansas, beating the Hogs, 41-17, to secure a trip to the BCS National Championship Game. The Hogs finished with a record of 10-2 and had to settle for a trip to the Cotton Bowl.
January 2012: Cotton Bowl
Arkansas wasted little time putting the Cotton Bowl in its pocket.
A punt return by Joe Adams and a long touchdown pass from Tyler Wilson to Jarius Wright helped give the Hogs a 19-0 halftime lead over Kansas State, and Arkansas held on in the second half en route to a 29-16 win.
So once again, Petrino and the Razorbacks went into the offseason on a high note. It was eventually announced that Wilson would be returning for one more season, immediately giving rise to high hopes for Arkansas' 2012 season.
Things started to go south a few months later.
March 28, 2012: Bobby Petrino Hires Jessica Dorrell
It wasn't exactly headline news at the time, but we eventually found out that Petrino had hired 25-year-old former volleyball player Jessica Dorrell to serve as a "student-athlete development coordinator" on March 28.
Dorrell's job, according to the Associated Press, was to be in charge of "organizing the recruiting process for the football team, including initial eligibility for each incoming player."
With duties such as those, Dorrell would surely be working alongside Petrino on occasion. The only people who knew there was more to the story were Dorrell and Petrino.
April 1, 2012: Petrino Is Involved in a Motorcycle Accident
On Sunday, April 1, Petrino crashed his motorcycle while riding near the town of Crosses, Ark. He had to be taken to the hospital, but was released Monday morning.
Petrino's family issued a statement on the matter on Monday. Courtesy of USA Today:
Coach Petrino was involved in a motorcycle accident on Sunday evening that involved no other individuals. ... Our family appreciates respect for our privacy during the recovery and we are grateful for the thoughts of Razorback fans at this time.
"No other individuals."
Those three words would ultimately seal Petrino's fate.
April 3, 2012: Petrino Returns to Practice, Addresses Media
Petrino was able to return to practice on Tuesday, just days after he crashed his motorcycle. He also addressed the media for the first time.
Courtesy of ArkansasSports360.com:
I'm very fortunate and feel very lucky to be here and be in good health. It was a situation where I don't remember a lot about exactly what happened. I noticed the sun was going to be in my eyes the rest of the way home and it got to the point where I wasn't going to be able to maneuver the turn. There was about 15 seconds where I said, 'Oh no, here I go.'
Petrino confirmed that he was not wearing a helmet at the time of the accident, and he admitted that was a bad idea.
"Obviously bad call,” Petrino joked. “We wouldn’t have converted the third down."
On balance, Petrino's session with the media was a lighthearted affair. Things seemed like they were back to normal.
April 5, 2012: Police Report Reveals Petrino Was Riding with a Passenger
The plot of Petrino's motorcycle crash thickened on Thursday, April 5.
On Thursday, two days after Petrino addressed the media, the Associated Press revealed that the police report of Petrino's accident made mention of a passenger named Jessica Dorrell.
It was noted right away by the AP and virtually everyone else that this revelation made Petrino a liar. Worse, the fact that Petrino had just hired Dorrell surfaced right away.
Arkansas immediately went into damage-control mode, and it only took a few hours to come to a decision regarding Petrino's immediate future with the team.
Evening of April 5, 2012: Petrino Placed on Administrative Leave
A few hours after it was reported that Petrino had been travelling with a passenger when he crashed his motorcycle, he was placed on paid administrative leave by the university pending a review of the situation.
"I don't know what I'm going to find," said AD Jeff Long said at a news conference Thursday night, according to the Associated Press. "I am disappointed that coach Petrino did not share with me, when he had the opportunity to, the full extent of the accident and who was involved."
Petrino also spoke on Thursday evening, and he confirmed what everyone had suspected of his relationship with Dorrell.
"Today, I've acknowledged this previous inappropriate relationship with my family and those within the athletic department administration," he said.
At the time, Long set no timetable for his investigation into the matter.
April 9, 2012: Police Report Details Circumstances of Petrino's Accident
On Monday, a memo from Arkansas trooper Capt. Lance King to Major Les Braunns was released, and it answered a lot of questions people had about Petrino's accident.
The memo, which surfaced on ArkansasSports360.com, revealed that it was King who drove Petrino to the hospital following his accident. The two of them remained in pretty much constant contact after the incident, and Petrino even consulted King on the protocol for providing passenger information.
The Arkansas State Police clarified that King was not guilty of breaking any laws or violating any policies.
What the report confirmed, however, is that Petrino never asked to keep Dorrell's name off the police report. As soon as he provided police with her information, he had to have known that her name was going to get out.
April 10, 2012: Petrino Is Fired by AD Jeff Long
Petrino's career at Arkansas officially came to an end on Tuesday.
Word started circulating that Petrino had been fired on Tuesday evening after ESPN's Joe Schad reported via Twitter that Petrino was "out" at Fayetteville. Long held a news conference to confirm the news a short while later, and he also revealed some damning new details about Petrino's relationship with Dorrell.
In the news conference (watch the video), Long revealed that Petrino had violated university policy when he hired Dorrell over 159 other applicants without clarifying that the two of them were connected. Worse, Long also discovered that Petrino had given Dorrell $20,000 in cash.
In the end, Long had no choice but to fire Petrino. Via ESPN.com:
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. 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.
So just like that, Petrino was done at Arkansas.
April 10, 2012: Petrino Issues a Statement on His Firing
Shortly after he was fired, Petrino issued a statement.
In it, he was apologetic. Courtesy of ArkansasSports360.com:
The simplest response I have is: I’m sorry. These two words seem very inadequate. But that is my heart. All I have been able to think about is the number of people I’ve let down by making selfish decisions. I’ve taken a lot of criticism in the past. Some deserved, some not deserved. This time, I have no one to blame but myself.
Petrino also said that he's going to use this incident to change as a person:
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.
Eventually, Petrino says he wants to continue coaching.
The first order of business for Arkansas is finding a new head coach to replace Petrino. The fact that the Razorbacks are a solid team with a chance to contend in 2012 makes them attractive, but finding a head coach at this stage of the game won't be easy.
As for Petrino, well, it may be a while before he finds another head coaching job, and it's a good bet that the job he gets will be a step down from the Arkansas job. It's no secret that he's trouble, and his insistence that he's going to change is only worth so much in the grand scheme of things.
But Petrino will work again. He may be a lousy person, but he's a good coach. Like it or not, the truth of the matter is that winning comes before morals in college football, so somebody will pick Petrino up eventually.
Petrino will find work, but it's going to be very hard for him to fix his reputation. After all he's been through, it's probably broken beyond repair.