Because I’m willing to forgive, because I’m all for second chances and don’t forever stay angry at someone who shows remorse after a mistake, I’m fine with Bobby Petrino returning to the school he calls home.
It was essentially a shocking development, and for those who never saw it coming, they are outraged that Louisville rehired a man who showed a lack of respect for the university the last time he fled town. Petrino’s hiring is, for sure, a gusty hire and maybe it made Tom Jurich, the Louisville athletic director who was there when Petrino was his head coach from 2003 to ’06, look desperate and mindless. It’s easy to rush into things and find yourself taking chances on a coach you are familiar with and, in this case, Jurich knows Petrino better than anybody.
He’s back for a second stint as Louisville’s head football coach, but when it comes to Petrino’s lack of character and shady reputation, he’s not likable and instead he’s polarizing. The reality is that he’s capable of building a Louisville program into a national power. He has become the bad guy in college football, though he guided the Cardinals to a 41-9 record, two conference titles and an Orange Bowl victory.
It’s going to unfortunately take a lot more work and a winning season for him to earn respect from those who lost all respect. It’s going to take actions more than words for him to win back credibility and trust, or even greater, a national championship that would cure all ills. It’s a risky move, to be sure, but in a strange way, he’s worth the risk. Dare I suggest he’s the right guy for the job, whether he’s loved or loathed.
You had to figure he’d never get the best coaching job available or even return to Louisville as a head coach. Not everyone likes the idea of a reunion, but he’s expected to be announced as Charlie Strong’s successor. It’s not a decision based on the fans or students, but a decision based on what’s best for the football program moving forward. For all the success Petrino has enjoyed, it is what he’s done in the past to put the Cardinals on the map.
We all know that he’s selfish and only thinks about himself and nobody else, but he certainly cares enough to win football games. We all know that he’s disloyal and is known as a mercenary, but he is certainly a great coach, dedicated and committed to his craft. There are a lot of negative things to say about Coach Petrino, but whatever way you want to view it, it was the right move to bring him back.
It’s hard to know exactly where the hell he’s coming from, but it’s not hard to imagine him laying the foundation for future success. And part of what makes him a damn good coach is that he owns the all-time winning percentage in school history, and he can make an immediate impact quickly with the right blend of talent. It’s hard to trust Petrino after suddenly leaving the Falcons just 13 games into the 2007 season to take over the head coaching job at Arkansas. It’s hard to believe anything he says when he was fired in 2012 after his motorcycle accident and confessing to having an affair with a 25-year-old mistress he’d hired for a position with the football team. It’s hard to take him seriously when he’s dismantled Arkansas’ football program.
And no one is saying he’s not worthy of a coaching job because it is folly and cruel to say such a thing, but he betrayed Jurich and the school in the past. There is a belief that he’s genuinely contrite and is trying to change his image. Petrino’s plan, when he will be staying on the sideline next season, is commitment and hard work. The more he thinks about the past, the less success he’ll have moving forward, realizing that he made a mistake — and because of it — he lost his job. Bold and determined, unlike a lot of athletic directors, Jurich forgives Petrino. He’s over the fact that Petrino famously went behind his back to interview for the Auburn job in 2003, including LSU and Notre Dame in 2004.
After all of that, Jurich believes he deserves a second chance, and at the end of the day, that’s all that matters. It’s not about what the public thinks. It’s about what Jurich thinks is in the best interest for the football program, and it obviously happens to be Petrino’s return. It’s probably true that many are skeptical and downright baffled by the decision to bring back an embattled coach. And yes, he’s broken promises, violated the terms of his contracts and lied to his bosses at every turn. It’s easy to write him off as a villain who lost his dignity everywhere he’s coached in his controversial career.
He was out of coaching for a year before he was hired at Western Kentucky, where his team finished 8-4 this past season and 30th nationally in total offense at 459 yards per game. Petrino at least is one of the brilliant offensive minds in college football, and that will help him as he keeps Louisville among college football’s elites. Here’s his chance to go from a pariah to a coaching legend. He obviously has learned from his mistakes and he’ll have to realize that one misstep can end his career — and he’s fortunate to have a job.
He’s already shown he has changed, and I believe it. He left for a major school, and more importantly, he left to come back home. More than anything, he reminded us, quite like before, that he’s all about winning wherever he coaches.