FAYETTEVILLE — University of Arkansas Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics Jeff Long met with members of the media Tuesday releasing the results of his internal investigation culminating in the termination of Bobby Petrino.
Long said that Petrino was fired with cause and that the search for a new leader of the Razorback football team will begin immediately.
Below is a transcript of Tuesday night’s press conference:
Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics Jeff Long (opening statement) – "Good evening. Thank you for being here tonight. Last Thursday night, I met with you to share information that I had learned just hours earlier that Coach Petrino had not been forthcoming with me, and with you, about the circumstances of his motorcycle accident. As you know, I placed Coach Petrino on administrative leave while I reviewed his conduct related to the accident. I assured him and all of you that I would approach this task fairly and thoroughly. Since that time, I have spoken with key individuals who were involved in the accident and what occurred afterwards, his passenger on the motorcycle, the individuals who transported him to Fayetteville and to the hospital, and several people who spoke with Coach Petrino before and after the accident. I reviewed the manner, the timing, the extent to which Coach Petrino shared information about the accident, both with me and with others, and to whom he was accountable. That includes, among others, members of the football program, our supporters, student-athletes, faculty, staff, and alumni of this university and the public at large. My review raised several concerns which led me to look beyond the accident itself. That included the professional and personal relationship he had with his passenger, Jessica Dorrell, the process and circumstances that influenced his decision to hire her, as a direct report member of his staff, and his candor and behavior as a member of my staff. Here are the key findings of my review: Coach Petrino knowingly misled the athletics department and the university about the circumstances related to his accident. He had multiple opportunities over a four-day period to be forthcoming with me. He chose not to. He treated the news media and the general public in a similar manner. Coach Petrino’s relationship with Ms. Dorrell gave her an unfair, and undisclosed, advantage for a position on Coach Petrino’s football staff. She was one of 159 applicants for the job, and Coach Petrino himself participated in the review and selection process without disclosing his relationship with her, and that constitutes a conflict of interest under university policy. During my review of this matter, Coach Petrino informed me that he had given a large sum of cash, some 20,000 dollars, to Ms. Dorrell. Coach Petrino, however, failed to disclose this information to me prior to his recommendation to hire her into the football program. Coach Petrino’s conduct regarding his account of the accident jeopardized the integrity of the football program. He made a choice to return to practice on Tuesday, to hold a press conference, and to demonstrate his physical resiliency and command of his program, all the time failing to correct the initial report that he was the only person involved in the accident. He made a conscious decision to speak and mislead the public on Tuesday. In doing so, he negatively and adversely affected the reputation of the University of Arkansas, and our football program. By itself, Coach Petrino’s consensual relationship with Ms. Dorrell prior to her joining the football staff was not against university policy. By itself, it’s a matter between individuals and their families. However, in this case, Coach Petrino abused his authority when, over the past few weeks, he made a staff decision, and personal choices that benefited himself and jeopardized the integrity of the football program. In short, Coach Petrino engaged in a pattern of misleading and manipulative behavior designed to deceive me, and members of the athletics staff, both before and after the motorcycle accident. He used the athletic department funds to hire, for his staff, a person with whom he had had an inappropriate relationship. He engaged in reckless and unacceptable behavior that put his relationship in the national spotlight. Coach Petrino’s conduct was contrary to the character and responsibilities we demand of our head football coach. In fact, that is the very language that is included in the contract that he signed at the University of Arkansas. Consequently, this afternoon, I have informed Coach Petrino that his employment with the university was being terminated immediately. I have spoken with Assistant Head Coach Taver Johnson and have asked him to continue the responsibility for the football program’s administrative operation through the completion of spring practice April 21. Now, I realize this decision may not sit well with some Razorback fans here in the state of Arkansas and across the country. We have one of the top football programs in the country, and a lot of that credit goes to Coach Petrino. But credit for that success also belongs to the large measures of the student-athletes in the program, and to the other coaches and staff members who have worked hard to support them. I met with the football team a short time ago and informed them of my decision. I shared with them my disappointment in having to make the difficult decision. I asked them to try to remain focused on their academics and finishing spring practice. I am committed to providing them with the leadership that is befitting of our mission to develop student-athletes to their fullest potential through intercollegiate athletics. It’s been the primary obligation that we have to each of them, and to each of the more than 460 student-athletes in our program. We are an educational institution with more than 23,000 students. We have high standards, a national reputation, and one of the best public institutions in the country. Our expectations of character and integrity in our employees can be no less than what we expect from our students. No single individual is bigger than the team, the Razorback football program or the University of Arkansas. 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. We will maintain a program of student-athletes and coaches that all of Arkansas and Razorback fans across the nation will be proud of."
Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics Jeff Long (on the job status of Jessica Dorrell) – "Ms. Dorrell is obviously an employee of our athletic program, but that’s a personnel matter that I can’t discuss any further in this environment."
Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics Jeff Long (on his concern for fans’ reaction) – "I’m certainly concerned. I know that we have very passionate fans, fans that have been so supportive of our program. The student-athletes, coaches and fans of our program are the backbone of what we are and who we are. I know there is disappointment. I have disappointment. I expect them to be disappointed, but then in the end I hope that they will rally around the student-athletes in this program who are quite outstanding, and I hope they’ll rally behind them. We have the opportunity for a very successful year next year."
Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics Jeff Long (on the $20,000 payment) – "Again, at this point, it’s still a personnel matter that’s in process. I can’t share any further information other than that she did receive 20,000 dollars, confirmed by both she and Coach Petrino."
Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics Jeff Long (on whether Coach Petrino was fired with cause) – "Coach Petrino was terminated with cause, and no, there was no negotiation about ways that he could remain as our head football coach."
Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics Jeff Long (on whether Coach Petrino expressed remorse) – "Yes, I think that Coach Petrino expressed that he was sorry for what had happened."
Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics Jeff Long (on whether there will be a search for a new head coach after the spring) – "I’ll actually begin a search following this press conference tonight. We will maintain as we are through spring practice, which ends the 21st. At that time I’ll assess where we are in the search process, and make a decision on an interim head coach going forward."
Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics Jeff Long (on whether he plans on having a new head coach to start next season) – "You know what, it’s so fresh for me, this has happened so quickly, I haven’t had a chance to contemplate that. Certainly we are going to conduct a search and determine whether we can attract a head coach who can lead this program. If not, then we would go with an interim and then do a search following the season."
Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics Jeff Long (on ‘manipulating and deceiving behavior’ and whether Coach Petrino tried to cover up his relationship with Jessica Dorrell) – "I would characterize it as, I believe Coach Petrino had a number of opportunities to share with me the nature of his relationship, and I’ll leave it at that."
Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics Jeff Long (on whether he would consider anyone on the staff besides Taver Johnson as an interim coach) – "I think that I have not made a decision on that. I think following spring practice, I’d make the decision as to who I thought was the best leader on an interim basis. It could be Taver (Johnson), it could be Paul Haynes or Paul Petrino."
Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics Jeff Long (on whether he found anything similarly misleading about Coach Petrino’s past that influenced his decision) – "Again, it’s difficult to judge what you mean by the past, but I can’t say that I have any knowledge from the past. That wasn’t pertinent to this review."
Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics Jeff Long (on whether Coach Petrino negotiated during the process) – "No, he wasn’t given that opportunity."
Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics Jeff Long (on whether there was a buyout agreement with the firing) – "No, the termination was for cause."
Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics Jeff Long (after being thanked for being a stand up man and athletic director) – "Thank you."
Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics Jeff Long (on what discussions he has had with Paul Petrino about staying on the staff) – "I met with the entire football coaching staff and some of the support staff prior to meeting with the team. I talked to them about the fact that I hoped that they would carry on and obviously coach through spring practice, and that I hoped to begin meeting with them individually to discuss the future, and I will do that with each member of the football coaching staff, as well as a number of the support staff."
Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics Jeff Long (on when he knew that Coach Petrino wasn’t going to return) – "Today."
Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics Jeff Long (on whether facts leading up to today could have changed) – "Yes, I had a conversation with Coach Petrino today, which concluded my review."
Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics Jeff Long (on how hard this process has been on him) – "Obviously I brought Coach Petrino here. I know his family. Certainly they have been great partners as we’ve worked together to build the football program, and obviously Coach Petrino had a huge part of that, so this is very difficult. It’s very difficult on a human and personal level, but I have responsibilities greater than that, and I have to put those aside and do what’s in the best interest of the university."
Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics Jeff Long (on how he thinks this will affect the current and future recruiting classes) – "Well, I don’t know. It’s hard to say standing here today what impact it will have. Certainly we hope to find a head football coach that can lead this program and attract the kind of student-athletes that we think can be successful in the SEC, which you all know is the toughest football conference in the country, and we’re in the toughest division. So I think that will attract a quality coach, and it will attract quality student-athletes to compete in it."
Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics Jeff Long (on how long the inappropriate relationship had gone on) – "You know, those details I’m not willing to talk about at this time, but it had been a significant period of time."
Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics Jeff Long (on how much more of an attractive job he thinks this is because of the building of the facilities and program) – "Well, I think certainly the success our young people have had on the field is a great factor in that. I think the additions that we’ve made to our football program, upgrading video technology and all those kind of things, upgrading the football stadium with a new artificial surface, and then our football center that we’re building now, I think all make the job more attractive than maybe it was when Coach Petrino took the job."
Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics Jeff Long (on when he learned of the $20,000 payment) – "I learned about it through the course of the review."
Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics Jeff Long (on at what point that money exchanged hands) – "You know what, I don’t want to go into detail of that, but obviously both parties admitted that a gift was given of that amount of money."
Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics Jeff Long (on the process of where it went from him to the Chancellor to the board of trustees) – "Well, I sent a letter to the Chancellor of the university informing him of my decision. He is involved in the review process if Coach Petrino chooses to have my decision reviewed."
Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics Jeff Long (on whether an attorney of Jessica Dorrell has contacted the university about maintaining her job) – "No, I have been in contact with her with the course of the review, but I have not received any communication from a Ms. Dorrell or any representative of hers."
Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics Jeff Long (on the circumstances of Dann Kabala leaving the program) – "I knew Dann Kabala when I worked at the University of Pittsburgh. I was helpful in getting Dann a position here that he interviewed for, and then he joined Coach Petrino’s staff. They had an opening in Pittsburgh and he pursued it, so there’s no more to that other than he had an opportunity to go back to his home and work for the University of Pittsburgh."
Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics Jeff Long (on how many of the 159 job applications were interviewed) – "I believe it is three were actually interviewed for the position. There were three finalists."
Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics Jeff Long (on how long the job was open) – "I can’t tell you, Shelley, off the top, but I know that it was shorter than our normal affirmative action hiring process."
Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics Jeff Long (on why he is so emotional) – "Well, people’s lives are affected Shelley. Coach Petrino’s, his staff’s, and the student-athletes in our program. So those are the things that sometimes we miss."
Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics Jeff Long (on Coach Petrino’s reaction today when he was told the news) – "I prepared Coach Petrino when we met this morning that I believed I had grounds for termination. According to his contract, he’s informed in writing of my decision, so I informed him today in writing. So I have not been with Coach Petrino since he’s received my final determination in writing."
Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics Jeff Long (on why he chose to inform Coach Petrino in writing) – "I chose to do it in writing because that’s the terms of his contract."
Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics Jeff Long (on the players’ reaction) – "Honestly, I think understandably, they’re concerned. Coach Petrino was the leader of their football program. I think that they are a little bit confused at this point, concerned, but I’m sure they’re running the human emotions that any young person at that age would have. And at the same time, when they know that they’ve got a pretty special football team that they and teammates are looking forward to for the coming year, so I’m sure that this is a very difficult decision on them, and I expressed to them that I thought that it would be and I knew that it would be."
Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics Jeff Long (on whether he heard from or felt pressure from boosters during the review process) – "I’ll be honest, I did not hear directly from boosters trying to influence me one way or the other. Certainly, I had some expressions just of concern, but I think most of them just expressed their concerns and were supportive of the review they knew I had to do. Well, let me rephrase that. If you’re talking about hearing from them, I think automatically a phone call or conversation. I’ve had several hundred more emails that people have sent, so I’m sorry I was going to conversations. There are hundreds of emails that I have not had a chance to even open up. As you might expect, the ones that I have looked at are supportive of Coach Petrino, but then also supportive of the process. So they’re what you would expect to receive from fans who are as passionate as the Razorbacks are."
Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics Jeff Long (on the unusual timing and process of potentially hiring another head coach from another school) – "Yeah, it’s a difficult time of year to be searching for a head football coach, no question. But I do think that our program is one that there will be people interested in, and that process will be seeing what coaches kind of self-identify to us that will be interested in our program. But again, we can command a high-level football coach, and we’re not going to compromise that. If we have to go through the season with an interim, I’m going to consider that, but again I need some time to play out the search and see where we stand."
Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics Jeff Long (on Coach Petrino’s reaction when he informed him of the grounds for dismissal) – "You know, I think his reaction was a little bit obviously concerned that I felt I had grounds for termination. So he was concerned."
Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics Jeff Long (on whether he is disappointed in Coach Petrino’s actions) – "Well, I’m disappointed in Coach Petrino’s actions. I hired him to lead a group of student-athletes, and the head football coach is not only the leader of our football student-athletes, but in many ways they are the focal point of our entire athletic program, and so yes, I’m disappointed. I’m disappointed in his lack of judgment, I’m disappointed in his failure to tell me the truth about it, or failure to just inform me about the situation."
Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics Jeff Long (on his career at Arkansas being tied to Coach Petrino’s and whether he feels regret for hiring him) – "Well I don’t know that I share your review. Do I regret hiring him? Well that’s a difficult question. If he hadn’t been engaged in this inappropriate behavior, no, I wouldn’t be disappointed in hiring him. But his actions have resulted in me having to take this action."
Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics Jeff Long (on whether there was one aspect that was a last straw in the firing process) – "Well I think again, there are a number of things, but I think casting the negative light and negative publicity onto our program, onto our university, onto our athletic program, that was one of the factors and probably a more key factor."
Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics Jeff Long (on whether Coach Petrino’s actions conveyed that he felt he was bigger than the program) – "Yes, that’s what I was trying to convey."
Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics Jeff Long (on maintaining the positive momentum of the football team on the field and in fundraising) – "Well, the positive momentum starts with the student-athletes in the program, it starts with those assistant coaches, and I think it continues to a Razorback fan base that loves the Hogs, and there’s no question about that. I’ve said it many, many times that the University of Arkansas and our fan base is one of the most unique in America. I think after the disappointment, they will gather themselves and rally behind this football group of student-athletes, this football program, and this university which really as all of you know that live here, represents the entire state of Arkansas."
Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics Jeff Long (on what happened in his discussion with Coach Petrino on Tuesday that led to the decision) – "There wasn’t one singular thing, Adam. There were a number of things we spoke about, but I can’t point to one thing that made the decision for me. It was an accumulation of things. Many things influenced me in that discussion."
Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics Jeff Long (on whether Coach Petrino offered up any punishment that he would accept) – "No, he did not."
Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics Jeff Long (on whether the review uncovered any NCAA violations or potential violations) – "No, I didn’t come across anything that I thought rose to the level of an NCAA violation. I don’t think there was anything that was an NCAA matter in my review. It was a personnel matter."
Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics Jeff Long (on whether he has received any public outcry regarding the decision) – "Today has been moving very quickly. I am not aware of any outcry by the student body. I did engage the outgoing ASG president recently, before the information was out, and he just offered his support for my process and my ultimate decision."
Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics Jeff Long (on whether he has spoken with members of the staff, particularly Paul Petrino, and whether they plan to remain on the staff) – "I met with the coaching staff, as I mentioned. I think all of them expressed to me that they believed that they had a great situation here at the University of Arkansas, that they felt like they had a great team and that they were hopeful that that staff would remain together. Including Paul Petrino."
Download: 4-10-12 (Long).pdf