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Petrino fired as Arkansas head football coach

By the CNN Wire Staff
April 11, 2012 -- Updated 1348 GMT (2148 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: "The simplest response I have is: I'm sorry," Petrino says in statement
  • Petrino "knowingly misled the athletics department and the university," AD says
  • He calls Petrino's behavior "reckless and unacceptable"
  • Petrino had been placed on paid administrative leave last week

(CNN) -- Bobby Petrino has been fired as head football coach at the University of Arkansas, the school's athletics director said Tuesday. Petrino's lack of candor about his "personal and professional relationship" with a female employee who was riding with him on a motorcycle that crashed earlier this month was key to the decision, Jeff Long told reporters.

"Coach Petrino knowingly misled the athletics department and the university about the circumstances related to his accident," Long said in a news conference at the university's baskeball arena in Fayetteville. Though the 51-year-old coach had "multiple opportunities" over four days after the accident to be forthcoming, "he chose not to."

Petrino had been placed on paid administrative leave last week after it was revealed he had not disclosed that Jessica Dorrell, a 25-year-old female member of his staff, was on his motorcycle with him when it crashed on April 1 and that he had given her unfairly favorable treatment in hiring her on his staff.

Long said Petrino had been fired with cause, meaning the university is not obligated to pay out his contract.

Jessica Dorrell, a 25-year-old member of his staff, was on Petrino\'s motorcycle with him when it crashed .
Jessica Dorrell, a 25-year-old member of his staff, was on Petrino's motorcycle with him when it crashed .

University Chancellor G. David Gearhart issued a statement Tuesday saying the coach'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."

Petrino issued a statement Tuesday night saying he takes responsibility for what happened and apologizing for, among other things, putting Long "in the position of having to sort through my mistakes."

"The simplest response I have is: I'm sorry," Petrino said in the statement. "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."

Petrino also said, "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."

He also said his "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."

Long said his review of the case "raised several concerns which led me to look beyond the accident itself," Long said, citing "the process and circumstances that influenced his decision to hire (Dorrell) as a direct-report member of his staff, and his candor and behavior as a member of my staff."

Long said Petrino had had a "consensual relationship" with Dorrell, and that Petrino had given Dorrell "some $20,000" and failed to disclose their relationship when recommending her for the job with the department, thereby giving her "an unfair and undisclosed advantage for a position on his football staff."

Dorrell, Long said, was one of 159 applicants for the job.

"By itself, Coach Petrino's consensual relationship with Miss Dorrell prior to her joining the football staff was not against university policy," Long said. "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 compromised the university, Long said.

He said Petrino also "engaged in a pattern of misleading and manipulative behavior designed to deceive me and members of the athletics staff both before and after the accident," Long said.

Petrino told the police investigating the crash that the sun and wind had caused him to lose control and crash into a pile of dirt and tree limbs on the side of the road, according to the police report.

"He made a choice to return to practice (last) 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 four seasons as head coach, Petrino led the Razorbacks to a 34-17 record, including an 11-2 record last season that included a victory in the Cotton Bowl. Arkansas finished the season ranked among the top five college teams in the nation.

CNN's Nick Valencia contributed to this report.

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