|Updated: 4/06/2012 5:27 pm
||Published: 4/05/2012 4:00 pm
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) - Arkansas put football coach Bobby Petrino on paid leave Thursday after he failed to disclose he had been riding with a female employee half his age when his motorcycle skidded off the road over the weekend.
Petrino apologized and said he had been concerned about protecting his family and keeping an "inappropriate relationship from becoming public."
"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," he said in a statement issued by the university.
Athletic director Jeff Long announced the decision at a late-night news conference and said he had no timeline in determining the 51-year-old Petrino's future with the Razorbacks.
"I'm at the beginning of the review. I don't know what I'm going to find," Long said.
Long said he was disappointed that he didn't hear about the passenger - former Arkansas volleyball player and current football program employee Jessica Dorrell, who is 25 - until Petrino called him Thursday afternoon, minutes before a police report was released that disclosed her presence at the accident.
Long said assistant head coach Taver Johnson has been put in charge of the program while he conducts a review that could lead, based on conduct clauses in Petrino's contract, to a possible suspension or firing.
"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."
Petrino, who is married with four children, didn't mention he had a passenger during a news conference on Tuesday, two days after Sunday's accident, and a school statement that day quoted Petrino's family as saying "no other individuals" were involved.
Petrino said then that he had spent Sunday with his wife, Becky, at a lake and was going for an evening ride.
"When I came out of the ditch, there was a lady there that had flagged down a car," Petrino said Tuesday, nursing four broken ribs and wearing a neck brace to support a cracked neck vertebra. "The guy that was in the passenger's seat said, 'Get in, we'll just take you right to the hospital instead of waiting,' and so I got in the car and they headed toward Fayetteville."
In Thursday's statement, Petrino acknowledged that he had kept quiet about Dorrell.
"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," he said. "In hindsight, I showed a serious mistake in judgment when I chose not to be more specific about those details," he said. "Today, I've acknowledged this previous inappropriate relationship with my family and those within the athletic department administration."
Dorrell, who did not return a call seeking comment, was hired March 28 by Petrino as the student-athlete development coordinator after serving as a fundraiser in the Razorback Foundation. She is in charge of organizing the recruiting process for the football team, including initial eligibility for each incoming player.
Long said he had not decided whether to suspend Dorrell.
Petrino signed a new seven-year contract in December 2010, after completing his third regular season at Arkansas. The contract, which was for an average of $3.53 million annually, had a clause in it that would allow Arkansas to dismiss Petrino for "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 (university's) athletics programs in any way."
The police report said Petrino was riding with Dorrell when he lost control of his motorcycle. Dorrell said in the report that she wasn't sure what caused the accident, during which Petrino was unable to maneuver a turn and laid the motorcycle down on its left side while sliding off a rural, two-lane highway about 20 miles southeast of Fayetteville.
Petrino said in the report that wind and sun caused the accident. The police report said Petrino and Dorrell were taken by a passer-by from the scene of the accident to a shopping center in southeast Fayetteville, where a state police officer took Petrino to the hospital.
The police report said Dorrell wasn't taken to a hospital, and that she was dropped off at her vehicle at the shopping center. State police spokesman Bill Sadler said Petrino didn't try to hide Dorrell's part in the accident when questioned on Tuesday.
"Coach Petrino was as cooperative as anybody that we could ever hope to encounter following the traffic crash," Sadler said. "He was very forthcoming with information when approached by the trooper who made the initial contact Tuesday afternoon."
Petrino, who wasn't wearing a helmet, was hospitalized, but has since returned to practice. He will not be cited for the accident that occurred near the small town of Crosses on a road popular with motorcyclists. Petrino has said he has been an avid rider since he was 10, and the Helena, Mont., native said several years ago that he owned a Harley-Davidson and four other motorcycles.
Petrino just completed his fourth season with the Razorbacks, who have developed into a national contender under his watch. He's 34-17 in four seasons at the school, 21-5 over the last two, and the Hogs finished last season ranked No. 5 after losing only to national champion Alabama and runner-up LSU.
Petrino is a former NFL coach, leaving the Atlanta Falcons after 13 games in the 2007 season to join the Razorbacks. He endured plenty of criticism on his way out of Atlanta, from fans and former players alike, for leaving midseason.
He was a college head coach at Louisville before that, guiding the Cardinals to a 41-9 record from 2003-07.
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Statement from University of Arkansas Head Coach Bobby Petrino:
“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.”
Report: Petrino riding with 25yo during accident
LITTLE ROCK, AR – A report released by the Arkansas State Police Thursday says Arkansas Head Football Coach Bobby Petrino had a 25-year-old passenger with him at the time of his motorcycle accident Sunday.
The passenger is Jessica Dorrell, a recent hire to the football team. Her title is Student Athlete Development Coordinator for Football.
Monday, the University of Arkansas released this statement from Petrino's family regarding the accident:"Coach Petrino was involved in a motorcycle accident on Sunday evening that involved no other individuals
(emphasis added). 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."
After the accident, according to the report, Petrino and Dorrell were picked up and taken to the intersection of East Huntsville Road and Crossover Road in Fayetteville. Dorrell then left in her personal vehicle and Petrino was taken to the hospital by ASP Captain Lance King in his ASP vehicle. The report says Dorrell was not injured in the accident.
From the transcript of Petrino’s news conference after the accident:“Well when I came out of the ditch there was a lady there that had flagged down a car
(emphasis added). The guy that was in the passenger’s seat said, ‘get in, we’ll just take you right to the hospital instead of waiting,’ and so I got in the car and they headed towards Fayetteville. In the meantime on my cell phone I had a call from Lance King, so we set up a place to meet, and then he brought me to the hospital. The first call I made was to Doctor Arnold, to tell him I needed to get to the emergency room. He was actually in Fort Smith, but made all the arrangements for my arrival.”According to the University’s website
, Dorrell came to the football team from the Razorback Foundation, where she was the first female member of the fundraising staff. Dorrell lettered in volleyball from 2004-07, and made the second -team All-SEC in 2007. She graduated from Arkansas in 2008 and received her MBA in 2010.