Published November 20, 2014
Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long made it perfectly clear what he expects from his staff as he put coach Bobby Petrino on leave for keeping him in the dark about a sordid-looking relationship with a female employee.
"It's difficult any time that we have a coach, an employee that makes a misstep, it's disappointing to me," Long said. "We have high expectations. I think every coach and every administrator and every staff person knows we have high expectations. Certainly, I'm disappointed."
Those expectations are squarely in the spotlight at Arkansas and for Long, who told The Associated Press on Saturday that he continues to work on the review of Petrino's conduct throughout the weekend and likely into Easter Sunday.
Long didn't offer a timetable for the conclusion of the review, which is examining a variety of issues surrounding Petrino's motorcycle accident last weekend. Most notably, Thursday's revelation through a police report that the 51-year-old Petrino was riding with a 25-year-old female employee at the time of the wreck.
Petrino initially said he was alone during the accident before admitting to Long on Thursday that he wasn't.
As Long's investigation continued Saturday, so too did the speculation surrounding the exact nature and timeframe of Petrino's relationship with Jessica Dorrell, the football department employee who was riding with the coach.
Petrino, who is married with four children, was noticeably vague in his statement on Thursday — saying only that he had acknowledged a "previous inappropriate relationship" without naming Dorrell as the other party in that relationship.
Messages for the former Arkansas volleyball player and Razorback Foundation fundraiser, who was hired by Petrino on March 28, have yet to be returned. A former Razorbacks volleyball player and friend of Dorrell's, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said Saturday the volleyball program's alumni have reached out to Dorrell.
"We feel like we have to do all we can right now to protect her," the person said. "She's done so many great things, but all of that is wiped out in the eyes of some people now. She's not a bad person."
The person said Dorrell hasn't returned calls from friends since the police report was released Thursday.
"She's in safe mode right now," the person said. "Everyone has made mistakes. Everyone has dirty laundry, but not everyone has their dirty laundry shown on national television."
Like it or not, coaches are expected to be positive role models for their players and their programs. It doesn't always work out that way, though.
Petrino is hardly the first major college coach to be caught in relationship scandal. Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino admitted to having sex with Karen Cunagin Sypher in a Louisville restaurant before becoming the victim of an extortion attempt by Sypher, who was later convicted.
Pitino kept his job despite a morals clause in his contract that would have allowed Louisville to fire him. Petrino has a similar conduct clause, and Arkansas is now faced with the decision of whether to keep the highly successful coach who is 21-5 over the past two seasons, 34-17 overall in four.
"These morals clauses have become increasingly important because sports are clearly, football and men's basketball, are large-revenue producers, and universities don't want any adverse publicity," said Matt Mitten, director of the National Sports Law Institute at Marquette. "But unfortunately coaches do some things or get involved in things that don't put the university in the best light."
Nebraska coach Bo Pelini, speaking in general terms about how coaches must behave, said Saturday he talks to his players often about holding themselves to higher standards. He said both players and coaches must be "guarded at all times" and aware they are under the microscope.
"Like it or not, that's what you signed up for and that's your responsibility," Pelini said. "You're responsible to people way beyond just you — first and foremost your family, the athletic department, the football team, the players, your staff, everybody you're associated with."
Pelini said he keeps that thought in mind anytime he's in public.
"Your reputation is your greatest asset," Pelini said. "You better protect it at all times."
Balancing a personal life with the very high-profile nature of being a college football coach is far from an easy task. Paul Petrino, Arkansas' offensive coordinator and brother of the Razorbacks head coach, made that clear when he was asked about the accident on the day Bobby Petrino return to work — two days before the police report was released.
"It was just a freak accident. He wrecked," Paul Petrino said. "If that's most people, everyone would just be seeing him for a week in the hospital and taking care of him. (He) just happened to be who he is and the whole world knows about it. That's just kind of part of the deal, but he just wrecked on his motorcycle, so it's not like ... We're just thankful he's OK."
Alabama coach Nick Saban said earlier in the week, also before Bobby Petrino's police report was released, that he doesn't let his job interfere with having fun away from work.
"I try to enjoy life," Saban said. "I still waterski. I ride them jet skis as fast as they'll go and every two years I get the fastest ones.
"... You could (get) hit with a golf ball, and I like playing golf, too. You could have a fatal accident there, but I'm not going to not play golf because of it."
Riding jet skis and playing golf look far different from riding a motorcycle with a female employee less than half your age, which is what Petrino did.
His fate now lies in the hands of Long, who came to Arkansas in late 2007 from Pittsburgh. The 52-year-old also has also worked at Virginia Tech under athletic director Jim Weaver, who called Long a "hard worker" with a "great work ethic."
Long also spent time at Eastern Kentucky, where volleyball coach Lori Duncan coached at the time and said now that she expects Long to "do the right thing" based on what he finds during his investigation.
"Personal integrity is very important to him and to us, he alluded to doing things the right way," Duncan said. "It was very, very important to him. I can think back — who the kids were, who they were as people and how he treated them. I'd be surprised if he didn't respond in a very strong way."
AP Sports Writers Eric Olson in Lincoln, Neb., John Zenor in Tuscaloosa, Ala., Colin Fly in Lexington, Ky., and Hank Kurz in Blacksburg, Va., contributed to this report.