Former Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino was apologetic in text messages sent to a series of athletic department employees, including athletic director Jeff Long, following the revelation of his affair and the presence of his former mistress during the April 1 motorcycle accident that led to his downfall.
The content of Petrino’s text messages still available on his phone were obtained by The Associated Press through a Freedom of Information Act request Thursday night. In the messages, Petrino tells Long he appreciated how he handled the April 5 news conference in which Long placed Petrino on paid 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.” .
Petrino was fired Tuesday for failing to disclose his relationship with Jessica Dorrell, whom he hired last month without disclosing his relationship with her or the fact 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.
However, they do include show that Petrino was concerned about his job.
On April 6, the day after he was put on leave, Petrino asks assistant athletic director Chris Wyrick: ”Is the mood to fire me or to keep me???”
Wyrick’s response was, ”I can’t honestly speak to (Long’s) pulse on that, but my gut is he wants it to work. You have done the job and most feel like you are due a mulligan.”
The following day, Petrino texted Long once again. The 51-year-old coach was still on leave at that point, which was the day following an Arkansas scrimmage at spring practice.
”Hey Jeff, I’m just sitting around wondering what I should be doing??,” Petrino texted. ”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.
Prior to Petrino’s April 5 revelation to Long that the 25-year-old Dorrell had been a passenger during the motorcycle crash, Long showed repeated concern for 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 – roughly 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.”
Later that night, the two met and Long told Petrino he was putting him on paid leave.