The University of Louisville formally announced Bobby Petrino as the new head football coach today. The athletic director stated that he “did not want the Bobby Petrino of seven years ago,” and that he was confident that Petrino was “a changed man.” The recent timeline of Petrino includes a 13 game stint with the Atlanta Falcons, a solid run at Arkansas that ended due to an extramarital affair, and a good season at Western Kentucky. Petrino is being ridiculed for his apparent lack of integrity, and Louisville is being questioned for bringing him back.
When he was fired from Arkansas, I wrote that he should never be offered another coaching position. However, time has given me reason to have faith.
Petrino seemed genuinely humble at his press conference; having had to fight to keep his personal life together, having been laughed at from all sides, and having lost a great coaching gig, he probably views a return to Louisville as being the best of all possible worlds. He seemed really contrite, not only about the incident at Arkansas, but also about having treated Louisville as a stepping stone position. There was also an inherent apology and regret regarding his time with the Atlanta Falcons, although I doubt that it would settle any brushfires still lingering there.
I have more reasons to have faith though. Primarily the fact that Louisville is going to be his last real attempt at big name college football; given his history, few programs will want to touch him, and only his actual history at Louisville got him his job there. Petrino is in a serious bind, and I think he acknowledges and welcomes it: he has to do well at Louisville, he has to stay there a while, and he has to justify that faith that the university is putting in him. Furthermore, for a guy who worked for three different teams in the span of a calendar year once, stability is his new best friend, after winning games of course.
I actually approve this move, which is something I did not think I would hear myself say. Petrino needs a fresh start, which is something that only Louisville can give him now; even Western Kentucky, which in the modern world of college football cannot begrudge him leaving… too much, was not a fresh start, but rather an attempted reboot of his career. It is a smart move on both sides, and one that works for both of them.
That said, Louisville’s ultimate insurance policy, a $10 million buyout clause if Petrino leaves, is still a smart move.