FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Worried about his fate, Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino asked colleagues whether he was going to be fired while simultaneously wondering if an investigation would uncover the content of his frequent cellphone texts, according to documents released Thursday night.
The content of Petrino's text messages that was still available on his business cell were obtained by The Associated Press through a Freedom of Information Act request. In the messages, Petrino asks assistant athletic director Chris Wyrick about his job status on April 6 — the day after he was put on paid leave by athletic director Jeff Long following the revelation that he had hired his former mistress just a few days before the two were involved in a motorcycle accident.
"Coach, I know I sometimes aggravate you, but PLEASE listen to me. Does Jeff know EVERYTHING from your standpoint??" Wyrick asked.
"Yes I believe he does," Petrino responded. "Is the mood to fire me or to keep me???"
"I can't honestly speak to (Long's) pulse on that, but my gut is he wants it to work," Wyrick wrote. "You have done the job and most feel like you are due a mulligan."
At about the same time, Petrino texted someone only identified as "Andy" to ask, "can they get content off my text." Other documents indicate that photo or video content was shared between Petrino and Dorrell over the past seven months.
"I think thy (sic) can only get who you text," Andy replied.
The following day, the coach texted Long, who had launched a review into the hiring of 25-year-old Jessica Dorrell late last month by Petrino, a 51-year-old married father of four.
"Hey Jeff, I'm just sitting around wondering what I should be doing??," Petrino wrote. "I just want you to no (sic) how sorry I am that this all happened!!"
That was the last text available on Petrino's phone. He was fired three days later.
Petrino was fired Tuesday for failing to disclose his relationship with Dorrell and withholding other information from Long, including that he had once paid her $20,000 for reasons that have not been disclosed. Petrino's available texts, which don't include any that might have been deleted, don't include any with Dorrell, though other documents show that the two had exchanged more than 4,300 texts and nearly 300 calls since September.
The university also released documents related to Dorrell's hiring, which Long this week said didn't follow typical protocol. He said Petrino failed to disclose his conflict of interest in recommending his mistress get an open job as a recruiting coordinator at an annual salary of $55,735.
Long sent a March 19 request university officials to waive the usual 30-day wait period so they could fill the open recruiting coordinator job. The documents include Petrino stating why Dorrell was his favored choice out of 159 applicants and three finalists.
"I would like to offer to this candidate," Petrino wrote. "Out of the candidates, she had the best experience and we felt like she would be the best fit for this position."
Someone — it was not clear who — also wrote in the interview feedback section of Dorrell: "She has a natural networking ability who can communicate to coaches, student-athletes and donors. Out of the three (finalist) candidates, Jessica has the most overall experience of building relationships that the football program is looking for."
Flight manifests involving the football program over the past several months show that Dorrell joined Petrino and three other passengers on two separate day trips in February, on the 23rd and 29th. The first was a roundtrip flight to from Fayetteville to Searcy, Ark., for an appearance at the White County Razorback Club, the second a similar trip to Texarkana, Ark.
The two were also on two more flights the following month, on March 6 and March 12, again joined by three other passengers. Both were day trips, one to Harlingen, Texas, the other to West Memphis, Ark.
In other texts, Petrino praised Long for how he handled the April 5 news conference in which Long announced he had put the coach on leave.
"Jeff I appreciate how you handled last night," Petrino texted. "Let me know if we need to get together again. I'm at your disposal and will do whatever it takes to keep you in my camp and remain your coach."
Long, who had been concerned about Petrino's health following the motorcycle accident, texted back: "Thanks Bobby, I am working through the process. Jeff."
It was a more brusque response than just a few days earlier, when Long showed repeated concern about Petrino's condition following the accident. Long texted Petrino twice the night of his accident and again the following morning.
"Bobby respect your privacy but would like to hear from you," Long texted on the morning of April 2. "Let me know how you are. Jeff."
Petrino called Long at 10:07 a.m., more than 15 hours after the accident. In later texts, Petrino said he felt sore after suffering four broken ribs and a cracked neck vertebra but seemed to be doing better. Long said he admired Petrino's toughness and encouraged him not to "push too far."
Long's concern continued until the 3:11 p.m. phone call on April 5 when Petrino came clean about his affair — 20 minutes before the police report was released. At 3:43 that afternoon, Long texted Petrino on his way back from an off-campus function.
"Bobby, we need to talk sooner," Long texted. "I'll call you when I get back to town."
Petrino's next step is unknown, though his home is for sale and listed for $2.5 million. The 8,741 square-foot house has been listed since May 6, 2010 and features six bedrooms, six full bathrooms and three half bathrooms.
Weichert Realtor Brandon Long couldn't confirm the house is Petrino's, but property records show the Fayetteville address listed is that of the former Razorbacks coach. Long said the owners put the house on the market last year with the intention on downsizing. The house sits on a nearly 3-acre lot and features theatre and game rooms as well as a double-staircase entrance.
Long, meanwhile, is looking for Petrino's replacement.
"No decision on Interim Coach, Know current assts well, no need for folks to lobby, have watched for myself," he tweeted late Thursday. "All scenarios still on table." Then he added: "Want to express appreciation for outpouring of support for my decision. Please show support for our TEAM by attending spring game in record numbers. Go Hogs!"