• Western Kentucky University

An article in Sports Illustrated by one of the applicants for the University of Arkansas staff job that went to Bobby Petrino’s girlfriend Jessica Dorrell says the resulting scandal has set back the cause of women in football, a male-dominated profession to begin with.


Christianne Harder writes that Dorrell had no experience working in football, only in athletic fund-raising, despite a requirement for that experience in the call for applicants that drew 159.

What I suspect Jessica Dorrell failed to realize, not being a woman in football, is what a gift she was given. She never had to struggle to get her foot in the door, work for free or move away from her home to a school with which she had no connection in pursuit of her dream. Who knows if working in football even was her dream. She had no idea that her actions will have lasting implications for women across the country. Her decision to continue seeing Petrino proves she had no concept of the gravity of her indiscretions. A true football chick, as I like to call us, would have never done such a thing. Our jobs are too important to us because they are so hard to get.

There are two major unspoken rules for a woman in a football office. The first is that you watch what you wear. Left to my own devices, I wear professional, knee length dresses and heels to the football office. This worked at Stanford. But at Washington, anything dressier than jeans was not OK, as it was seen as a “distraction” in the office. I soon learned that my best bet was to always wear pants and flats.

The second unspoken rule of women in football is be careful of how — and where — you engage with the coaches. Football professionals work long hours, especially during the season, and we travel with the team. By being one of a few women in an office full of men, you do everything you can to not put yourself in a situation that could be misconstrued as inappropriate. Any football chick will tell you that we have no interest whatsoever in compromising our hard-earned titles for any man who works in coaching — we are going to be the football guru in our households thank-you-very-much — outsiders certainly look for signs of impropriety. Thanks to Dorrell’s relationship with Petrino, they will be looking even harder now for things that, in the vast majority of professional situations, simply do not exist.

Dorrell remains on paid leave at the University of Arkansas while Athletic Director Jeff Long reviews her hiring.