There’s always more than meets the eye. What appeared to be an unfortunate motorcycle accident for Arkansas Razorbacks head coach Bobby Petrino turned out to be a scandal that threatens his reputation and perhaps even his job.
Word had spread about Petrino crashing his motorcycle on Sunday, April 1 near Fayetteville, Ark., but later in the week it was announced that a secret passenger was also involved.
That passenger was Jessica Dorrell, a former Arkansas volleyball player that Petrino hired as his student athlete coordinator on March 28.
The 51-year-old head coach admitted to having an affair with the 25-year-old woman. Dorrell is engaged to the Razorbacks’ swim director, and Petrino is married with four children.
Petrino had spent Sunday with his wife, Becky, at a lake and took his motorcycle out for an evening ride on Arkansas Highway 16 in Madison County. He lost control of the motorcycle when maneuvering around a turn, he said because of the wind and sun, and laid the motorcycle down on its left side while sliding off the two-lane road into a ditch.
The coach didn’t receive any life-threatening injuries, but he did have a cracked C-2 vertebra, four broken ribs and a bruised face. He was not wearing a helmet.
At a news conference on Tuesday, April 3, Petrino didn’t mention to reporters or to school administrators that he had a passenger.
According to ABC News, Petrino told the press, “When I came out of the ditch there was a lady there that had flagged down a car and the guy that was in the passenger seat said, ‘Get in, we’ll just take you right to the hospital.’”
When he learned that the police report would be released, Petrino revealed to Arkansas Athletic Director Jeff Long the truth of the story and confessed that Dorrell was riding with him in the wreck and was also in a relationship with him.
“My concern was to protect my family and a previous inappropriate relationship from becoming public,” he said in a statement released by the school, according to Fox Sports. “In hindsight, I showed a serious mistake in judgment when I chose not to be more specific about those details.”
Long placed Petrino on paid administrative leave while the university undergoes an investigation that could lead to penalties like suspension or firing. Long doesn’t know if other scandals involving Petrino will be uncovered. There is no timetable for the final decision.
“I am disappointed that Coach Petrino did not share with me, when he had the opportunity to, the full extent of the accident and who was involved,” Long said at a news conference Thursday night, according to Fox Sports.
Long said he had not decided whether or not to suspend Dorrell. She does not appear to be injured from the crash.
The police report said Petrino and Dorrell were taken by a passer-by to an intersection in southeast Fayetteville, where a state police officer took Petrino to the hospital. Dorrell was just dropped off at her vehicle.
State police spokesman Bill Sadler said Petrino was cooperative when questioned by the police and didn’t try to hide Dorrell’s part in the accident.
Arkansas State Police are also investigating a police captain who stopped to help Petrino after the crash and who worked private security detail for the coach on his time off.
Assistant head coach and linebacker coach Taver Johnson is in charge of the football team in Petrino’s absence.
“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 remaining head coach of the Razorbacks,” Petrino said, according to Fox Sports.