Arkansas players react to firing

Updated: April 20, 2012, 10:04 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. -- Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson had no idea about former coach Bobby Petrino's extramarital affair. Neither did running back Knile Davis.

The Razorbacks standouts described feelings of shock and disappointment about Petrino's affair Friday, and are rallying around what's left of the current coaching staff.

"Obviously, it's been tough on everybody," Wilson said. "It's a unique situation. It's tough for everybody, but I think it's unique that our team has been very coherent through all of it."

Wilson and Davis were among a group of Arkansas players and coaches to speak for the first time since Petrino's firing after a scrimmage during spring practice in Razorback Stadium.

Petrino was fired Tuesday for failing to disclose his relationship with football staffer Jessica Dorrell and withholding other information, including that he once had given her $20,000 for a car.

Razorbacks offensive coordinator Paul Petrino, brother of Bobby Petrino, also said he had no idea about the relationship between his brother and Dorrell -- adding that he will support his brother, who he said is paying for his mistakes.

"Bobby's my brother," Paul Petrino said. "I love him. I will always love him. He made a mistake. He's paying deeply for it, and I'm putting all my focus right now into doing the very best I can in coaching Tyler Wilson, and coaching this whole football team and helping my family get through it, too."

Petrino came to Arkansas after last season, leaving his job as the offensive coordinator at Illinois to return to a team that appears primed for Southeastern Conference and national championship runs. The Razorbacks were 11-2 last season, 21-5 over the past two years, and finished last season ranked No. 5.

All of those hopes were put on hold after the April 1 motorcycle accident that put Bobby Petrino in the hospital. Four days later, a state police report revealed Dorrell was riding with Petrino during the accident -- a fact the coach had omitted while discussing the crash with the media and Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long.

Long fired Petrino with cause Tuesday. Since then, details of the lengthy relationship between the 51-year-old married father of four and Dorrell, a 25-year-old former Arkansas volleyball player, have come out via Petrino's text message history and Long's investigation.

Paul Petrino said the continuing revelations have put himself and his family in a difficult position. That said, he plans on staying at Arkansas -- after saying when he was hired in December that he wanted his children to go to the same high school all four years.

"It's hard. You know, it's hard," Petrino said. "And I'm proud of them. They went to school every day and they never missed a day of school. They had their heads up high. They carried their chest high and I'm proud of them. They've been really good."

Long's search for a new coach continued Friday. He said Tuesday that he had asked the current coaching staff to remain through at least the end of spring practice on April 21.

Assistant head coach Taver Johnson, who has been in charge of the program since Bobby Petrino was first put on leave April 5, made it clear he and the rest of the coaching staff wants to remain intact moving forward.

"We all do," Johnson said. "I think our guys know that we're ready to get together like a fist and we're ready to get going."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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