Arkansas coach Petrino put on leave after crash
FAYETTEVILLE, ARK. (AP) - Saying he was disappointed Bobby Petrino failed to tell school officials that he was riding with a 25-year-old woman when he crashed his motorcycle, Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long placed the football coach on paid leave pending a review.
“I don’t know what I’m going to find,” Long said at a news conference Thursday night, hours after a state police report revealed that the married, 51-year-old was riding Sunday with Jessica Dorrell, a former Arkansas volleyball player who now works for the football program.
“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,” Long said.
Petrino broke four ribs and cracked a neck vertebra in the crash, which he blamed on the wind and having the sun in his eyes. He was forthcoming with police, but failed to tell school administrators _ or reporters at a news conference on Tuesday _ about his passenger.
“My concern was to protect my family and a previous inappropriate relationship from becoming public,” Petrino said in a statement released by the school. “In hindsight, I showed a serious mistake in judgment when I chose not to be more specific about those details.”
Through his agent, Petrino declined further comment Friday.
Long set no timetable for his investigation, which could conclude with penalties including suspension or firing for the highly successful coach.
“I hope to have a resolution soon,” Long said. “I certainly don’t have all the answers here tonight, as we meet. But again, I have an obligation and responsibility to obtain the information and then act appropriately on that information.”
The emerging scandal also could deal a severe blow to the Razorbacks on the field, who Petrino has coached to appearances in the Sugar Bowl (a loss to Ohio State) and the Cotton Bowl (a win over Kansas State) in the last two seasons.
“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,” Petrino said.
Petrino just completed his fourth season with the Razorbacks, who have developed into a national contender since he was hired away from the Atalanta Falcons during the 2007 season. He’s 34-17 at the school, 21-5 over the last two years, and the Hogs finished last season ranked No. 5 after losing only to national champion Alabama and runner-up LSU.
He’s in the midst of a seven-year contract under which his salary averages $3.53 million.
The coach has been criticized in the past for job hopping _ first from Louisville to the Falcons, then for the in-season jump to Arkansas. He infamously met with Auburn officials in 2003 to talk about taking the Tigers’ head coaching job while Tommy Tuberville still had it.
But Petrino was greeted as a savior by Arkansas fans, and had given them no reason not to trust him.