Just a few minutes after the news hit that Bobby Petrino was fired as the head football coach at the University of Arkansas, the modern incarnation of the 1970s-1980s rock band Foreigner took the stage at the Walton Arts Center with one of the opening songs being “Dirty White Boy.”
“I've been in trouble since I don't know when
“I'm in trouble now and I know somehow I'll find trouble again.”
Trouble again from a popular Coach Petrino who finished the most recent season with 11 wins and a Cotton Bowl victory may have also been a factor in Tuesday's (April 10) decision by University of Arkansas Athletic Director Jeff Long to fire Petrino. Long made his announcement just a few blocks away from the Foreigner concert.
Petrino was placed on paid administrative leave on April 5 while Long investigated details of an April 1 motorcycle wreck involving Petrino and a female staffer of the athletic department.
Jessica Dorrell, 25, of Elkins, was on a motorcycle with Arkansas football Coach Bobby Petrino when it crashed Sunday, an Arkansas State Police report released Thursday noted.
Petrino said he was alone when he crashed his motorcycle on Highway 16 near the Crosses community in Madison County Sunday evening, but it was eventually learned that he lied to Long and the media about having a passenger.
Also, Dorrell’s hiring by Petrino has been called into question.
“I have waited a lifetime/Spent my time so foolishly/But now that I've found you/Together we'll make history,” Foreigner lyrically noted as they blasted out “Feels Like the First Time.”
It was foolish. And now he is history.
Long said Tuesday that Petrino’s serious lapse in judgment forced the dismissal.
“Our expectations of character and integrity in our employees can be no less than what we expect from our students,” Long said during the Tuesday night press conference. “No single individual is bigger than the team, the Razorback football program or the University of Arkansas.”
As to the search for a new head coach, Long noted: “I assure you we will seek a head coach that possesses the expertise, leadership skills and character to maintain Razorback football as one of the nation’s elite programs,” he said. “We will maintain a program of student-athletes and coaches that all of Arkansas and Razorback fans across the nation will be proud.” (See the video of Long’s press conference at this link with our content partners at 5NEWS.)
University of Arkansas Chancellor G. David Gearhart issued this statement: “This is a sad day for the University of Arkansas and Razorback sports. After a thorough review, Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics Jeff Long has made his decision. Mr. Petrino’s contract establishes a process by which he may have his termination decision reviewed. Under that process, the review would ultimately come to me for consideration and action. Given my role in the review process as Chancellor, I must decline further comment on today’s announcement.”
The rules to which Gearhart referred give Petrino five days from receipt of a statement of dismissal to seek a review — essentially an appeal — of the decision.
The Walton Arts Center event, packed with thousands who unselfishly support a Washington Regional Foundation that attempts to make better the lives of hundreds of thousands, was secondary in some respects to the unfolding drama just a few blocks away that was a result of one person’s selfishness. The thousands of people who gathered to support the foundation were buzzing just prior to the concert about the news of Petrino’s dismissal.
“Tough decision. Tough call for Long, but I think he wins on this decision in the long run. ... Because it’s probably what’s best for the university as a whole,” said one patron at the Foreigner concert.
“Long better, if he wants to keep his job, he better have a big name coach ready to fly in, like real soon, and keep the program going, keep the buzz going and keep the recruiting going,” offered another patron.
Foreigner exited the stage with “Hot Blooded” as the closer. The large “F” in a circle as the band icon displayed on the stage background may have held other meanings for a few concert goers. Maybe something about a Fired Football coach who Failed to deliver on a Future championship.
Or, simply, Frustration.
STATEMENT FROM BOBBY PETRINO (following his firing)
I was informed in writing today at 5:45 p.m. that I was being terminated as head football coach at the University of Arkansas.
The simplest response I have is: I'm sorry. These two words seem very inadequate. But that is my heart. All I have been able to think about is the number of people I've let down by making selfish decisions. I've taken a lot of criticism in the past. Some deserved, some not deserved. This time, I have no one to blame but myself.
I chose to engage in an improper relationship. I also made several poor decisions following the end of that relationship and in the aftermath of the accident. I accept full responsibility for what has happened.
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.
I have hurt my wife Becky and our four children. I've let down the University of Arkansas, my team, coaching staff and everyone associated with the Razorback football program. As a result of my personal mistakes, we will not get to finish our goal of building a championship program. 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. We have left the program in better shape than we found it and I want the Razorback Nation to know that it is my hope that the program achieves the success it deserves.
My sole focus at this point is trying to repair the damage I've done to my family. They did not ask for any of this and deserve better. I am committed to being a better husband, father and human being as a result of this and will work each and every day to prove that to my family, friends and others.
I love football. I love coaching. I of course hope I can find my way back to the profession I love. In the meantime, I will do everything I can to heal the wounds I have created.
I want to thank Chancellor Gearhart, Jeff Long, the Board of Trustees, the University administration, faculty, staff, students, alumni and fans for the opportunity to serve as the head football coach at the University of Arkansas for the past 4 years. I was not given an opportunity to continue in that position. I wish that had been the case, but that was not my decision. I wish nothing but the best for the Razorback football program, the University and the entire Razorback Nation.