FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Bobby Petrino enjoys talking about his childhood love of motorcycles. He has had a thing for them since he was 10, though there have been mishaps along the way.
The latest was perhaps the most serious. The Arkansas coach veered off a two-lane highway in the rolling hills of northern Arkansas on Sunday night, crashing his motorcycle and winding up in the hospital.
State Police spokesman Bill Sadler confirmed details of the accident Monday and that Petrino was taken to a hospital. The coach’s family said in a statement released by the school that Petrino was in “stable condition.”
“Coach Petrino was involved in a motorcycle accident on Sunday evening that involved no other individuals,” the statement said. “He is in stable condition and is expected to make a full recovery. Our family appreciates respect for our privacy during the recovery and we are grateful for the thoughts of Razorback fans at this time.”
Neither Washington Regional Medical Center in Fayetteville or Northwest Medical Center in Springdale would confirm Petrino was a patient. Athletic director Jeff Long said he met with Petrino and his wife, Becky, at a hospital on Monday afternoon, but disclosed no details of any injuries.
“Coach Petrino is resting comfortably and is encouraged by the progress of his recovery,” he said. “I know that he is very much looking forward to returning to spring practice at the earliest opportunity. In the course of our visit, the Petrinos expressed their appreciation for all the thoughts and well wishes that have come in from all over the country.”
The accident occurred near the small town of Crosses, 20 miles southeast of Fayetteville. Arkansas Highway 16 is a winding road popular with motorcyclists. Sadler said Petrino’s motorcycle left the highway and crashed, adding that it take 2-3 days before Petrino’s accident report is available.
The Razorbacks weren’t scheduled to practice on Monday, but the team did gather in the afternoon for a previously scheduled meeting. Arkansas is scheduled to practice on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday this week, and it was not clear how Petrino’s accident would affect that.
An avid motorcycle enthusiast, the 51-year-old Petrino has talked about owning a motorcycle and going for rides around northern Arkansas.
In a 2008 interview with Northwest Arkansas Media, Petrino said he has been an avid rider since he was 10. The Helena, Mont., native said at the time that he owned a Harley-Davidson and four other motorcycles.
“It’s relaxing to me,” Petrino said then. “You get out and you get to see some good scenery, and I like to ride up to Beaver Lake. It’s pretty up there. I’ve been around the outdoors. I grew up around the outdoors my whole life.”
Petrino said he had never been in a bad accident on a motorcycle, though he and his friends had some mishaps.
“Well, there was always the school of hard knocks,” Petrino said. “We fell off a few times and learned about it.”
Petrino pleaded guilty to speeding in Oklahoma in 2008 and was fined $183, according to a review of court records by The Associated Press. It was unclear whether he was driving a motorcycle at the time.
News of the accident was kept quiet until Monday. Long, who is active on Twitter, responded to a casual question in the overnight hours Monday — after Petrino’s accident — and gave no indication he knew. Running back Knile Davis tweeted “Good Morning S/O to all my followers” early Monday.
Since his arrival at Arkansas, Petrino has turned the Razorbacks into a national contender. He’s 34-17 in four seasons at the school, 21-5 over the last two, and has built Arkansas into a Southeastern Conference power.
The Razorbacks were 5-7 during his first season in 2008 before improving to 8-5 in 2009, winning the Liberty Bowl over East Carolina.
That was Ryan Mallett’s first season as the starting quarterback at Arkansas and was the first of three straight seasons the Razorbacks have led the SEC in passing. Mallett left for the NFL after 2010, but only after guiding Arkansas to its first BCS game, where it lost to Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl to finish the season 10-3.
Even without Mallett last season, Arkansas excelled behind quarterback Tyler Wilson, who earned first-team All-SEC honors under Petrino’s guidance. The Razorbacks were ranked No. 5 to finish the season, with their only losses coming to national champion Alabama and runner-up LSU.
Petrino was an NFL coach, leaving the Atlanta Falcons after 13 games in the 2007 season to join the Razorbacks. He was a college head coach at Louisville before that, guiding the Cardinals to a 41-9 record from 2003-07.