Bobby Petrino has broken his four-month silence.
The former Arkansas coach, who was fired by Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long on April 10 after the revelation he was having an affair with recently hired football department employee Jessica Dorrell, sat down for his first interview since his dismissal this week. ESPN’s Joe Schad met with Petrino in Montana and the network began airing portions of the interview on SportsCenter this morning.
Petrino was apologetic during the interview with ESPN, but felt he would be “a better coach” because of his mistakes. He told ESPN he has spent the past few months trying to repair the damage done to his wife, Becky, and their children.
“Looking at the look in her eyes of how I possibly could do something like this to hurt her (was the hardest part),” Petrino told ESPN. “It’s just something I guess anybody that’s ever hurt their loved ones or lost their dream job, can relate to how that is.”
Here is the portion of the ESPN Q&A which already has aired.
More from the ESPN interview is expected throughout the day.
Q: How did this relationship with another woman come about?
Petrino: “I'm trying to put my finger on the why. I somehow drifted away from what’s always been so important to me, what I’ve been defined as. Which is my family and we've got to figure it out."
Q: Why did you recommend that a woman you were having a relationship with be hired into the football office?
Petrino: “There is no justification. There is no excuse for having her in the interview pool, hiring her, having her on the back of the motorcycle. When I look back on it there is no good answer. All I know is that I wasn’t thinking and I wasn’t acting correctly. That’s not how I was raised. That’s not how I raised my children. I take responsibility for it and I really am sorry. I have played it over in my head a million times. How could I do this? How could this happen? And not just the hiring or that day. But my actions. And my behavior. For months. It was just wrong."
Q: What do you think was your biggest mistake?
Petrino: “It’s hard to say the biggest mistake, but it all comes back to the fact I had an affair and I cheated on my wife.”
Q: Biggest weakness as a person?
Petrino: “That’s a tough question right there. In this situation it came down to how could I possible do this? How could I drift away from what is so important to me. I do know this: I made mistakes. I’m going to be a better person because of it. I’m going to keep my life in better balance, the balance of my family, my faith and my profession. I really feel like I’ll be a better coach because this happened. I now know that I’m going to coach the person as much as the player and help the person when he has made mistakes and help him understand that he’s not going to be defined by the mistakes he’s made and how he reacts to it and overcomes it.”
Q: How would you describe the singular most difficult moment through all of this?
Petrino: “Sitting down and telling Becky. And looking at the look in her eyes of how I possibly could do something like this to hurt her. It’s just something I guess anybody that’s ever hurt their loved ones or lost their dream job, can relate to how that is.”
Q: How do you think the person that sits before me right now compares to the person five months ago?
Petrino: “I have a better understanding of what life really is about. You keep your priorities straight you put your energy into the people that love you [breaking down] count on you. I'm working hard to save my marriage I'm working one day at a time. I want to stay married. That's mainly my main priorities, making things right with my family.”
ESPN aired a few more minutes of the interview tonight. Some of it was a repeat of earlier today. Some of it wasn't.
Here are the new questions and answers:
Petrino: “I went over it a number of times in my mind. How did I end up off the road? I’m not exactly sure how that happened. I don’t know exactly how I ended up in the ditch.”
Q: What do you remember thinking as this was happening?
Petrino: “I think that the whole thing came down to the fact that I had an affair and I cheated on my wife and I knew that there were consequences that were going to happen. It’s hard to say what everything I was thinking. But I did know that I had this facing me that I had to tell my wife. I had to tell my family. I had to tell my boss what happened.”
Q: What would you tell a college or university athletic director or president or an NFL head coach or a team owner who said I believe you’re a good coach, but why should I trust you?
Petrino: “Well I just hope and pray that I get the chance to sit down in front of the person that is making the decision like that and be able to explain the mistakes I’ve made. How I’ve become a better person. A better father. A better husband. Like I said, I know I’m going to be a better coach because I know I’m going to spend more time coaching the person. Not just the player.”
Q: How would you describe your emotional state right now?
Petrino: “Well, it’s a little bit two-fold being here in Montana. It’s great to come back home and, you know, be back where everything started. It’s a lot of great memories here. My father and my mother have been a tremendous influence on my life and so supportive in everything that I’ve done from my early days until my coaching days. But it’s also hard, too. (chokes up) It’s hard to come home and feel these emotions and how I hurt them.”
Q: What did you tell them?
Petrino: “Just that I don’t understand how I could do it.”