University of Arkansas Athletic Director Jeff Long announced at a 10 p.m. news conference that he'd placed football coach Bobby Petrino on paid administrative leave as a result of learning today that Petrino was not alone in the motorcycle crash Sunday.
Assistant Coach Taver Johnson will take over while Long said he considers the situation. He didn't give a timetable but said he'd move "expeditiously". Johnson said he met with Petrino tonight at 7:15, at which time Petrino acknowledged he had not told Long the full story about Sunday's motorcycle accident, which involved Jessica Dorrell, a 25-year-old football staff employee. Long said Petrino first told him of the information in a phone call about 3:25 p.m. This was about an hour after release of the State Police report.
Long said he was disappointed in learning Petrino had not been forthcoming about the accident. The university earlier had relayed Petrino's statement that no one else was involved in the accident and, until the late-night event at UA, had not acknowledged that was in error.
Long fielded several questions from reporters, but deferred specific responses to most pending further review. He declined to answer specifically a question about Dorrell, whom Petrino has indicated now he'd tried to protect. He said he was trying "to protect my family and a previous inappropriate relationship from becoming public." Long said he'd spoken briefly with Dorrell. (You can replay Long news conference here.)
This statement was issued by 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.
The bottom line on the update to the story appears to be a confirmation that Petrino didn't tell the truth Tuesday, but with an assertion that the University of Arkansas didn't know the full details until today.
Long said he didn't know what a reporter meant by asking about a morals clause in a coach's contract.
But, as I noted earlier, Petrino's contract terms contain a broad reference to the university's right to dismiss the coach 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 adversely affects the reputation of the University or UAF's Athletic Program in any way."
Does a failure to fully reveal circumstances of a wreck to cover up an affair constitute a violation of this clause? Does failure to inform the university over a span of four days, thus putting the university's own crediibility on the line, affect that determination? Do Petrino's successful program and fans primed for national championship contention enter the equation?
Finally, this news conference won't be the last time to review what various officials at the UA knew and when they knew it. Did Petrino really keep all UA officials in the dark all week against the dead certainty this information would eventually be released? Or might there have been some hope it would NOT be released by the State Police, which has a close relationship with the coach through the security it provides him? State Police Capt. Lance King's comments to press and others since his ride with Petrino and Dorrell Sunday might be interesting to reconstruct, given that he, for sure, knew Petrino was not alone. UPDATE: State Police told the Democrat-Gazette that, though King picked up Petrino at the spot Dorrell was dropped off, he did not know the coach had been accompanied and he was merely concerned with getting him to the hospital
The family that gave Petrino and Dorrell a ride Sunday may also be revisited about their statements about their help after the accident. They didn't mention Petrino's companion, either, in press accounts. Asked about this by the Democrat-Gazette, they at first said they didn't pick up a woman and then, when shown the police report, refused further comment.
One other update from Friday Democrat-Gazette: It got a pay figure for Dorrell of about $55,000 from a University spokesman who doesn't work in the athletic department. The athletic department didn't comply with my FOI request yesterday for her work and pay history.