FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) — Bobby Petrino regrets the affair that led to his April firing, and the former Arkansas coach said he hopes to return to the sidelines.
Petrino, speaking publicly for the first time since his firing in an interview with ESPN, acknowledged the affair with former football staffer Jessica Dorrell and said he is in counseling with his wife, Becky.
The former Atlanta Falcons and Louisville coach was fired by Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long on April 10 for a "pattern of misleading" behavior following an April 1 motorcycle accident. Petrino initially said he was the only passenger but later admitted to Dorrell's presence and that he had given her $20,000 in gifts.
"How could I put what we had in jeopardy?" Petrino said. "This is what I wake up early every morning thinking about, what I lay in bed thinking about Why?
"I just don't understand how I could do it. You put energy into the people that love you, that count on you."
Petrino was 34-17 in four seasons with the Razorbacks and in the middle of a seven-year contract under which his salary averaged $3.53 million per year.
Petrino said he won't coach this season but that since his firing, schools such as California and NFL teams such as the Tennessee Titans have asked him to visit with their coaching staffs. He has done so and might continue to, with the hope that someone gives him another chance as a head coach.
"I would like to be able to explain the mistakes that I made," Petrino said. "I think I've got to take this one day at a time, continue to improve as a person and as a husband. I'm also going to continue to work on football. And I just hope and pray that I get that opportunity again."
Petrino improved his win total in each of his four seasons at Arkansas, culminating with an 11-2 record and Cotton Bowl win over Kansas State last season. The Razorbacks finished ranked No. 5, with their only losses coming to national champion Alabama and runner-up LSU.
As dramatic as his improvement at Arkansas was, however, his fall was even more so.
Petrino was injured in an April 1 motorcycle accident, though he returned to work for spring practice just days later.
Petrino told ESPN that he intended to tell his wife and Long about the affair and that he wasn't alone during the wreck when he returned to work, but that he was too injured and incoherent to do so.
However, following a news conference prior to his return, Petrino said he was the only one involved in the accident.
Dorrell's presence at the accident was eventually revealed in a state police report just days later. Petrino told Long of her involvement shortly before the release of the report, and Long responded by suspending Petrino while he conducted an investigation.
That investigation uncovered that Petrino had recommended the hiring of Dorrell, a former Arkansas volleyball player, to a position in the football department over 158 other applicants.
"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," Long said at the time.
Petrino was fired with cause, forfeiting the remainder of his contract and salary — including an $18 million buyout.
"There is no justification," Petrino told ESPN about hiring Dorrell. "There is no excuse for having her in the interview pool, hiring her, having her on the back of the motorcycle. I look back on it, and there is no good answer. I wasn't thinking, and I wasn't acting correctly."
The father of four said he is "working hard to save my marriage."
"I'm working one day at a time. I want to stay married. That's my main priority right now. Making things right with my family."