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After the Fall

For Arkansas, any decision on Bobby Petrino's future will weigh football as well as morality

As so often happens in sports scandals, the story that broke last week surrounding Arkansas head coach Bobby Petrino grew more complex—and bizarre—in a matter of days. On April 1, Petrino crashed his motorcycle 20 miles outside of Fayetteville, sustaining four broken ribs, a cracked vertebra, and cuts and bruises. Two days later he held a press conference, assuring Razorback Nation that he hadn't been drinking; that day the school released a statement quoting Petrino's family as saying "no other individuals" had been involved in the accident. But last Thursday the 51-year-old Petrino, who is married with four children, was put on administrative leave with pay after the police report revealed that Jessica Dorrell, a 25-year-old former Razorbacks volleyball player who was hired by Petrino on March 28 as the football team's student-athlete development coordinator, had been on the back of Petrino's Harley. In a statement Petrino acknowledged a "previous inappropriate relationship" with Dorrell, who was uninjured and is currently engaged to be married.

As of Monday, Arkansas AD Jeff Long had yet to issue a decision on Petrino's future. But Petrino is a proven elite coach (albeit one reviled in Atlanta for abandoning the Falcons for Fayetteville with three games left in the 2007 NFL season), and Arkansas is not an elite job. Under Petrino, the Razorbacks were 21--5 the last two years, and this season Arkansas is a national title contender.

Petrino has a clause in his contract that allows the school to dismiss him for immoral conduct, but so did Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino, who was not fired in 2009 after a sex scandal. The guess here: Petrino will soon hold a teary press conference, apologize for his sins and—loathed or not—be on the Razorbacks' sideline this fall.



RED FACED Before Petrino was suspended (after belatedly admitting that he'd not been riding alone), he had Arkansas eyeing a BCS title run.