Jessica Dorrell put on paid leave

Updated: April 14, 2012, 11:20 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. -- Arkansas says Jessica Dorrell, the 25-year-old football department employee whose affair with former football coach Bobby Petrino led to his firing, has been placed on paid leave by the university.

University spokesman Steve Voorhies confirmed Dorrell's leave on Friday morning, saying the school would issue no more details because the situation is a personnel matter.

Dorrell
Dorrell
Petrino
Petrino

Dorrell, a former Arkansas volleyball player, was a Razorback Foundation fundraiser before her hiring as the football team's student-athlete development coordinator by Petrino on March 28.

Dorrell was hired over 158 other applicants after a fast-tracked interview process that athletic director Jeff Long requested at the behest of the now-fired coach, according to a review of university personnel documents by The Associated Press.

Dorrell submitted a single-page resume expressing her interest in becoming the football program's student-athlete development coordinator job. She was among three finalists interviewed and was hired by Petrino in late March at a salary of nearly $56,000.

The other two finalists listed specific football experience as required by the job posting, while Dorrell did not, according to the review of more than 500 pages of documents released by the university this week under Freedom of Information Act requests.

The job listing was posted on March 4 and interviews cannot begin for 30 days under an affirmative action policy. Five days later, Long wrote to Danielle Wood, the assistant director of affirmative action at Arkansas, asking for the interview process to begin earlier.

Wood on March 12 asked Carrie DeBriyn, the human resources manager in the Arkansas athletic department, why the variance was needed.

"Coach Petrino would like to request to interview early due to needing a player development coordinator as quickly as possible," DeBriyn wrote back. "Fantasy Football Camp preparation, Red-White Game preparation and all recruiting coordination is falling short due to not having this position filled."

Wood approved the request 47 minutes later, according to the documents -- more than an hour after the itinerary for Dorrell shows her meetings beginning at the football complex with director of football operations Mark Robinson. The meetings began at 9:30 a.m. and ran through at least 1:30 p.m. and then, according to a university flight manifest, Petrino and Dorrell joined three others for a flight to Harlingen, Texas.

Long said Petrino gave Dorrell a gift of $20,000 before her hiring, and phone records show the two exchanged more than 4,300 text messages and nearly 300 phone calls over the past seven months.

Details were disclosed Friday after the letter that Long sent to Petrino on Tuesday to tell him he had been fired was released as part of a Freedom of Information Act request submitted by The Associated Press.

According to details in the letter, Long said Petrino and Dorrell had been in an extra-marital affair for "a period of several months," and that Dorrell used the "gift" from the former coach to buy a black Acura car during her first week on the job.

In a March 20 letter Long sent to Dorrell offering her the job, he wrote that "you should be aware that you will be held accountable for and must abide by University of Arkansas, Southeastern Conference and NCAA rules and regulations."

The school, he added, "expects integrity" and Dorrell was asked to comply with "conflict of interest policies" among other things. The letter amounts to an "understanding" that there are "no agreements, whether written or oral, regarding your employment other than those contained in this letter." The letter was signed by Dorrell.

A person familiar with the situation has told The Associated Press that Dorrell had "at one time" been engaged to another athletic department staffer, assistant strength and conditioning coach Josh Morgan. Voorhies said Morgan, who has held that title since 2009, is still employed by Arkansas.

Long was not available for comment Friday on whether Arkansas jumped the gun on starting the player development coordinator interviews. He has acknowledged the school did not follow its normal affirmative action hiring policy.

The other two finalists for the job -- Tiffany Fields and Ben Wilkerson -- both listed football experience on their resumes while Dorrell touted her skills in growing donations working for the Razorback Foundation. All three finalists listed master's degrees on their resumes, while only Fields submitted a cover letter.

The job listing's minimum qualifications include two years of "prior experience within a football program." Fields is an Arkansas recruiting assistant who noted that she has handled football camps and communicated with football recruits. She listed Petrino among her references.

Wilkerson is a former NFL player -- he noted that he played under Petrino during his 13-game stint with the Atlanta Falcons -- and was a four-year starter at LSU. Now an assistant at Grambling State, he told SI.com: "Of course I interviewed for the position, but I'd rather not discuss it because of the whole thing ... I'm starting a new job now and that's my focal point."

Wilkerson was brought in from Baton Rouge, La., for interviews on March 13 while Fields interviewed for little more than an hour on March 15.

Four days later, Long requested another variance, this time to hire a candidate immediately, and included a letter from Petrino.

"I would like to offer to this candidate," Petrino wrote. "Out of the candidates, she had the best experience and we felt like she would be the best fit for this position."

The request was approved the next day, on March 20, and Dorrell was hired on March 28.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

ALSO SEE