Expectations in Fayetteville, Ark., were sky-high for the 2012 season. With a number of key players returning to a team that finished just behind Alabama and LSU in the Southeastern Conference and a coach committed to winning, the Arkansas Razorbacks had all the makings of a national title contender next fall.
They may still be a force in the SEC, but they must do it without the man who led them to this point.
As the story unfolded after Petrino crashed his motorcycle 10 days ago, the Razorback faithful came to their coach’s defense, rallying to show support and pleading with the administration to forgive and move forward. But in the end, Petrino accepted the fate he earned.
In a statement, issued after the announcement, he was contrite.
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 pst. Some deserved, some not deserved. This time, I have no one to blame but myself.
I chose to engage in an improper relationship. I also made several poor decisions following the end of that relationship and in the aftermath of the accident. I accept full responsibility for what has happened.
I’m sure you heard (athletic director) Jeff Long’s reasons for termination. There was a lot of information shared. Given the decision that has been made, this is not the place to debate Jeff’s view of what happened. In the end, I put him in the position of having to sort through my mistakes and that is my fault.
I have hurt my wife Becky and our four children. I’ve let down the University of Arkansas, my team, coaching staff and everyone associated with the Razorback football program. As a result of my personal mistakes, we will not get to finish our goal of building a championship program. I wish that I had been given the opportunity to meet with the players and staff prior to this evening’s press conference and hope that I will be given the opportunity to give my apologies and say my goodbyes in person. We have left the program in better shape than we found it and I want the Razorback Nation to know that is my hope that the program achieves the success it deserves.
In an emotional media address Thursday, Long revealed the stunning depth of Petrino’s deception, slamming the 51-year-old married father of four for his decisions leading up to and after the accident.
“He made the decision, a conscious decision, to mislead the public on Tuesday, and in doing so negatively affected the reputation of the University of Arkansas and our football program,” Long said. “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.”
According to Long, Petrino’s relationship with the 25-year-old recent hire, Jessica Dorrell, lasted a “significant” amount of time, and at one point, Petrino gave her $20,000 out of his own pocket as a “gift.”
Dorrell, a former Razorbacks volleyball player, was hired by Petrino on March 28, only four days before both were involved in the motorcycle crash on a rural road outside of the city. Long said she was one of three finalists among a pool of 159 applicants, and was given the job in an unusually quick process. Dorrell, who reportedly called off an engagement one week before the accident, has hired a lawyer and could sue for sexual harassment. Under the school’s sexual harassment policy, even “consensual sexual relationships between faculty and their students or between supervisors and their employees in some instances may result in charges of sexual harassment.”
“Coach Petrino abused his authority when over the past few weeks he made a staff decision and personal choices that benefited himself and jeopardized the integrity of the football program,” Long said.
In his four seasons in Fayetteville, Petrino built the Razorbacks into a national power, leading them to a 21-5 mark over the last two years including an 11-2 record in 2011. Arkansas lost only two games last season — to national champion Alabama and runner-up LSU.
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