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Bobby Petrino fired at Arkansas; coached Falcons in 2007

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Associated Press
Bobby Petrino suffered injuries during an April 1 motorcycle accident, both physically and to his career at Arkansas.


 

The University of Arkansas fired former Atlanta Falcons coach Bobby Petrino on Tuesday, publicly dressing him down for unfairly hiring his mistress and intentionally misleading his boss about everything from their relationship to her presence at the April 1 motorcycle accident that ultimately cost him his job.

ESPN first reported the decision, which Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long later announced at a Tuesday night news conference while laying out a stunning laundry list of misdeeds by the man he hired away from the Falcons four years ago.

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Petrino, a 51-year-old married father of four, had maintained an inappropriate relationship with 25-year-old Jessica Dorrell for a "significant" amount of time and at one point had given her $20,000, Long said. Long wouldn't disclose details of the payment, but he said both parties confirmed the "gift."

Dorrell, a former Arkansas volleyball player, worked for the Razorbacks Foundation before Petrino hired her March 28. Long said Dorrell was one of three finalists out of 159 applicants and got the job after a time frame that he said was "shorter than our normal affirmative action hiring process."

Petrino never disclosed his conflict of interest in hiring Dorrell or the payment, Long said.

"He made the decision to mislead the public, (and it) adversely affected the university and the football program," said Long, who choked up at one point as he discussed telling players that their coach was gone.

Petrino later released a statement, according to ESPN.

"The simplest response I have is: I'm sorry," Petrino wrote. "These two words seem very inadequate. But that is my heart ... I'm sure you heard 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."

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Long said Petrino was fired "with cause" -- meaning he will not receive the $18 million buyout his contract called for -- and there were no discussions about ways to keep the coach at Arkansas. Long formally notified Petrino that he had been fired via a letter "because that's the terms of his contract."

The coach's Razorbacks tenure began under a cloud of national second-guessing following his departure from the Falcons just 13 games into the 2007 season. His departure was so sudden that Petrino left farewell notes in the lockers of the Atlanta players rather than telling them of his resignation in person.

In his statement Tuesday, Petrino expressed regret at the way his tenure ended at Arkansas, where he had built a Southeastern Conference power over four seasons, including a 21-5 record the past two years.

"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," Petrino wrote.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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