Holy crap! Petrino fired!
This isn’t exactly breaking news, but it’s worth mentioning because this is Arkansas and events surrounding the football team are widely followed. Oh, and this report can be considered an editorial, too, because I can’t help it — I’m a University of Arkansas alum and a lifelong Razorbacks fan, so I’m as interested in this horrible turn of events as anyone else in this state.
On Tuesday night, University of Arkansas Athletic Director Jeff Long fired Bobby Petrino, the man who succeeded Houston Nutt as head football coach in 2007. Petrino built the UA football program into a competitive Southeaster Conference (SEC) team over the past four seasons. The team compiled a 21-5 record over the past two seasons and, last year, lost to only LSU and Alabama — the two top teams in the nation which went on to duke it out for the national championship. The Hogs beat Kansas State in the Cotton Bowl last year and finished the season ranked fifth in the nation.
What led to Petrino’s downfall? You can read the sordid details here. It is, however, worth mentioning a few high points in this story which Arkansans have followed intently over the past couple of weeks.
The whole mess started on April Fool’s day when Petrino was injured in a motorcycle accident in Madison County. At the time, Petrino said he was alone in the wreck, but that turned out to not be the case. No, the 51-year-old Petrino was tooling around Madison County with his mistress, 25-year-old Jessica Dorrell. Yes, it is appropriate to call Dorrell the mistress of the 51-year-old, married father of four because, well, it turns out that is accurate.
Yes, Petrino said he was alone in that motorcycle accident, but a police report says different and that fact was revealed after the coach made a public statement swearing he was by himself. Some other facts have come out over the past week or so. Here’s a fun fact worth mentioning — when Petrino was hired in December 2007, Dorrell was still in her senior year at the UA (she was a star volleyball player). Here are some more intriguing facts — Dorrell was named football student-athlete development coordinator on March 28. She was hired by Petrino to the position and the former coach, at one point, gave her $20,000.
In short, it seems Petrino was giving cash and a job to his girlfriend and refused to come clean about his conflict of interest in hiring Dorrell or even his affair with her. Long said he canned Petrino “for cause” under the former coach’s contract, and that means Petrino won’t receive his $18 million buyout. He was, by the way, making $3.56 million a year at the UA.
To sum all of this up, Arkansas is without a winning head football coach, the UA is embarrassed, Petrino is releasing statements about the need to “heal his family” and one can only guess what will happen to Dorrell. Razorbacks fans, of course, are wondering what will happen to a beloved program for which the university rightly has high hopes in the coming season.
To understand how bad things are, one must realize that Arkansas had struggled in football since joining the SEC in 1992. Fans put up with a consistent cellar dwelling team which improved to fair-to-middling in 10 seasons under Nutt. The team became a legitimate contender in the league under Petrino and few Arkansans — if any — are overly interested in watching the team revert to what it was before Petrino came to town.
One can only hope the UA has a solid plan to replace Petrino. I wonder how happy Gus Malzahn is at Arkansas State University?
Benton resident. Rogue journalist. Recovering attorney. Email = Ethan@FirstArkansasNews.net.