I too think Dooley will last one more year for a couple of reasons. First, his current contract will be up, plus he took on an assignment that would be almost impossible for any coach. I believe the only way Hart will make a change this year will be if he can recruit an established name. The UT fans are tired of hiring coaches with "potential". With our facilities, resources and fan base, we expect to at least hire a proven commodity. I don't see Petrino coming this year but, next year, maybe. I think Hart would catch too much flack for hiring Petrino at this point, albeit not as much as hiring an unproven coach.. Hart is not the most popular A.D,. so how he handles the football situation will make or break him as well.
When Bobby Petrino crashed his motorcycle and his career this past spring, it was written here that he would most assuredly land another coaching job someday. We just didn’t expect him to be hired back into a major college job before all his bumps and bruises had had time to heal.
Look around the SEC and there could be a real race to land the ex-Arkansas coach this fall… just months after his fall from grace. He’s like the athlete who gets into serious trouble, is dismissed from his team, spends a year in juco ball, and then finds himself washed so clean by the juco experience that he becomes a hot property in the FBS ranks again. Only Petrino didn’t even have to do a year in career rehab at a smaller school. He just had to sit back and wait for other coaches to muck up their own situations.
If Kentucky does away with Joker Phillips — and it’s hard to imagine that not happening at this point — Petrino will be eyed longingly by a number of Wildcat fans who hope AD Mitch Barnhart will throw a Hail Mary to the ex-Louisville coach. (As we reported earlier this week, a source close to the UK football program told us that Phillip Fulmer and David Cutcliffe are more likely choices in Lexington. Don’t forget, Barnhart once worked at Tennessee alongside those two.) Barnhart likely won’t go down that road, but Petrino’s name will certainly pop up in the mix for UK’s job should it come open.
At Tennessee, Derek Dooley appears to be on his last legs as well. Most believe he entered the season needing to reach the eight-win plateau to survive. That would take a 5-0 finish at this point and that seems unlikely for a team with a bad defense and a passing game that disappears in conference play. If Dooley isn’t retained, AD Dave Hart will definitely make a run straight to ex-Tampa Bay coach and current ESPN analyst Jon Gruden. Once Gruden flirts with the Vols — as he has before — and then chooses to head back to the broadcast booth or an NFL sideline, Petrino might start looking pretty darn good. UT cannot afford anything less than a proven commodity next time around and Petrino has proven that he can win football games in the SEC.
Speaking of needing a proven commodity, if Auburn makes a move with Gene Chizik, don’t be surprised to see the Tigers chase Petrino. After the 2003 season, AU officials secretly met with the then-Louisville coach in an attempt to woo him back to the Plains as part of a coup to overthrow Tommy Tuberville (who had had Petrino on his staff the year before). We’ve been told by a source in the Auburn athletic department that Chizik would survive if he won four games. He would then face a do-or-die season in 2013. But the Tigers have one win on the season and their remaining games are against Texas A&M, New Mexico State, Georgia, Alabama A&M, and Alabama. The oddsmakers would tell you that Auburn likely won’t reach four wins. If AU pulls the trigger, AD Jay Jacobs won’t be allowed to roll the dice on a new coach the way he did when he pulled Chizik from Iowa State after a 5-19 stint with the Cyclones.
Those three schools all have possible or likely openings. Arkansas will have a definite opening. And Arkansas will be the only school in the bunch not willing to throw things into reverse and rehire Petrino. The ex-Hog coach burned AD Jeff Long. Long is still lucky that he didn’t find himself in hot water for helping to speed up the hire off Long’s mistress into the football department. (We’re hearing the Razorbacks are targeting TCU coach Gary Patterson for their opening.)
You would think that any school bringing Petrino back into the SEC would hold all the leverage. But if one or more schools are chasing him — amazing as it might seem — the ex-Arkansas coach may actually have some leverage with which to play.
But back on April Fool’s Day, who would have thought that Petrino might be such a sought-after man so quickly? But nothing is more important than winning games and making money in the SEC. And Petrino can win games and make money for his next employer. Unless another school from outside the league throws even more cash at Petrino, we expect him to be back in the SEC by the end of the year.
Just six months ago, we never would have thought that. Not so soon.