By Jason Sheehan –
The University of Louisville football team has found their next head coach and they did not have to look very far. Tom Jurich announced the hiring of former Louisville head coach Bobby Petrino at Thursday’s press conference. Petrino signed a 7 year contract worth 24.5 million dollars. The most significant aspect of the contract is the 10 million dollar buyout over the first four years.
Social media, news media, radio, etc. was running rampant on Monday and Tuesday of this week of the possibility of Petrino coming back to Louisville for his second stint as head coach. The rumors became a reality on Thursday.
The hiring of Petrino is seen as an extremely popular or equally unpopular decision. He served as Louisville’s head coach from 2003 – 2006 and led the program to a 41 – 9 record and a BCS win in the 2006 Orange Bowl over Wake Forest.
Petrino is known as an offensive genius which excited the Louisville fans during his first run with the Cardinals. His offenses at Louisville were regularly ranked in the top of the country in yardage and scoring. His 2004 team went 11 – 1 and had seven games in which they scored more than 50 points including five straight towards the end of the season.
Unfortunately, Petrino brings a great deal of baggage with him. Louisville fans are all too familiar with this baggage. Less than a week after the Cardinals defeated Wake Forest in the 2006 Orange Bowl Petrino accepted the head coaching position with the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons. He was given a five year contract worth 24 million dollars. Making matters worse for Louisville fans was that in July of 2006 he had signed a 10 year contract worth 25.6 million dollars to remain the head coach at Louisville.
Louisville fans had to deal with his constant flirtations with the next big job. He secretly interviewed for the Auburn job after only one season at Louisville. There were also secret meetings with LSU as well. He said all the right things to the media, but seemed to have door open any time a job came up.
He left the Atlanta Falcons after coaching only 13 games during his only season and accepted the coaching position at Arkansas. He was heavily criticized by a number of Atlanta’s players for leaving in the middle of the season.
Petrino was 34 – 17 with the Razorbacks. However, his record at Arkansas is certainly not what he is remembered for. He is best known for the infamous motorcycle accident. He initially said he was alone, but later the police report showed he was riding with Jessica Dorrell, student-athlete development coordinator for the football program. It was later revealed he was carrying on an adulterous relationship with Dorrell which led to his firing.
It is now on to Bobby Petrino 2.0. What will it bring to the football Program? Can they keep the momentum going from the Charlie Strong era? Will he make this a destination job? Is he really a changed man? These questions and more are left to ponder as Petrino begins his second run.
Petrino stood at the podium with his wife and children sitting to the side of him in front of a packed house of media members. Most of the questions were about trust, loyalty, and attitude. He told the audience “I want everybody to know this is my destination job…this is our home.” He admitted that leaving Louisville the first time was his “first mistake”.
There will be plenty of skepticism not only among outsiders, but the Louisville fans themselves due to Petrino’s checkered past. Petrino was asked how we will know he is a changed man. He simply responded by saying, “Our motto will be show me.”
Tom Jurich has taken a lot of heat for his hiring of Petrino. Many people are thinking with this hire he only cares about winning. Jurich spoke about the nine hour interview with Petrino. Jurich spoke with Petrino’s wife about who the new Bobby Petrino is. He even spoke with the Atlantic Coast Conference commissioner John Swofford about hiring Petrino.
Tom Jurich is widely regarded as the best Athletic Director in the country by many people. He is certainly gambling with the hiring of Petrino. He put it best when he said, “I would never put this school in harm’s way.”
Jurich wanted a coach that would continue the “upward trajectory” of the Louisville football program. Not one person will doubt the coaching ability of Petrino. There is no question he was the most qualified candidate out of those interviewed and the one to keep this program on the rise.
I have heard others say the following about Petrino: ‘once a liar always a liar’ and ‘once a cheater always a cheater’. Petrino certainly has done nothing in his past to disprove these statements. However, in hearing these statements implies that Petrino cannot change from his previous ways. Maybe he will or maybe he won’t. Who are we to judge Bobby Petrino?
Petrino’s past will never be forgotten. It is already written. Bobby Petrino 2.0 can distance himself from his past mistakes by now doing all the right things as he spoke today. Yes, winning is a cure for many things, but doing it the right with honor and integrity is the real key. Only time will tell if we will indeed see the new Bobby Petrino.