It didn’t take long for Bobby Petrino to return to coaching.
The former Arkansas coach, who spend a little time as head coach of the Atlanta Falcons you may recall, has resurfaced at Western Kentucky of all places. Petrino, who was 100 percent at fault in this reporter’s mind for ruining what could have been a memorable 2012 season for the Razorbacks is looking to put his past behind him — again.
Petrino’s knowledge of football has never been questioned, even by his most ardent of critics. If his record wasn’t so stellar, it would be easy to dismiss Petrino. In the world of college (and pro) football, however, it is not that simple.
Let’s quickly review some of the facts that shine in a negative light on Petrino, whom many consider the top mind when it comes to the passing game:
•While head coach at Louisville, he flirts with the Auburn position while the school still has a head coach.
•He leaves Louisville following a trip to the BCS and takes the head coaching job of the Atlanta Falcons.
•Petrino leaves the Falcons under the cover of darkness to take the Arkansas job. He doesn’t meet with his players, instead leaving a note on their locker.
•After four seasons at Arkansas, Petinno is involved in an offseason motorcyle wreck which he tries to cover up because the female passenger was not his wife.
•Going into the 2012 season, Arkansas was set for possibly it’s best year in program history. The cards were in place to make a run at not only the SEC West title, but a national title a well. School officials, however, can’t overlook the fact Petrino lied about the motorcycle incident and fire him. Former Petrino assistant John L. Smith, who only weeks earlier had given his word to Weber State to be their head coach, is brought back in on a one-year contract. The Smith experience was a disaster and now Arkansas has hired former Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema.
•After less than a year, Petrino is hired by Western Kentucky. The Hilltoppers qualified for a bowl game this season but their coach left to take the South Florida job.
All of this brings us to an early look at the 2013 football season and beyond. Will Petrino have success at Western Kentucky? You would be hard pressed to convince me otherwise. The program has been established and Petrino knows how to win.
Will Petrino take another in a couple of seasons or even after his first at Western Kentucky? It’s possible. Even he admitted he didn’t know what the future will hold.
Western Kentucky has been criticized for “selling its soul” to bring in someone with the amoung of baggage Petrino has. There is an argument for that certainly.
However, Western Kentucky officials who made the hire know Petrino brings instant credibility because of his past success on the football field. Clearly, they felt that was more important than what he has done off the field, whether on a motorcyle or in leaving behind one program for another.
There are some issues all football fans need to be reminded of from time to time. Petrino looking out for the “next best job” is not that big of a crime in my book. Schools would fire him or any coach if the right number of wins weren’t there.
Has he made mistakes in his personal life? You bet. But who among us has lived a life of perfection. Who among us hasn’t hoped for a second chance at one time or another.
One thing I do know: Western Kentucky football will be fun watching in 2013 because of their new head coach. They’ll throw the football all over the field and probably break some conference passing records.
Without Petrino on the sideline, I’m not sure I would be that interested in watching the Hilltoppers play. In looking to expand interest in the program, Western Kentucky officials realized as much.
They figured the risk was worth the possible reward. And when it comes to hiring a new coach, that’s what it’s all about as we move into the year 2013 in college football.
Chris Bridges is sports editor of the Barrow Journal. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.