You can hardly call this one a surprise. Bobby Petrino wants to coach again. The ex-Arkansas coach lost his job in April when it was learned he had hurriedly pushed the hire of his mistress through the UA athletic department.
According to his father, Bob Sr., Bobby wants to be back on the sidelines and back in the same conference:
“I know he wants a job; he needs a job. He told me, ‘I need a job, Dad.’ I said, ‘Well, you must still have some money. You made three-and-a-half million dollars (per year).’ And he said, ‘Yeah, I do. It’s not the money.’ He just misses coaching so much…
I just know this, that he’s interested in Kentucky. He wants to stay in the SEC. That was his life’s goal was to go to the SEC.”
Here’s guessing he didn’t tell Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank that when he jumped to the NFL for a half-season, pre-Arkansas.
So Petrino has let it leak out that he wants back in the game and back in the SEC. And his father even added that “he might take the first job he gets offered.” Expect plenty of Kentucky and Auburn and Tennessee and Arkansas fans to start pushing for him at their schools.
But ultimately, who will roll the dice on Petrino?
A bigger issue than the scandal that cost him his job is Petrino’s history of bad departures and backstabbings. Whether it was Tommy Tuberville, Tom Jurich, Blank, or Arkansas’ Jeff Long, all those who’ve hired Petrino have at some point come to regret it. Yes, he can build a winning team and bring in money. But he also leaves a mess or a double-cross at every exit.
I’ve spoken to sources close to and inside the Kentucky program who’ve told me the only way AD Mitch Barnhart will hire Petrino is if new UK president Eli Capulouto forces him to. And that’s not likely.
Ex-Arkansas player and current NFL analyst Jimmy Johnson said this week that Arkansas should forgive Petrino and re-hire him. But that’s highly unlikely as Petrino’s decision to get Long to help him speed up the hiring of his mistress could have cost Long his job. And just putting Long in the position of deciding whether to keep him or fire him might yet lead to Long’s adios from Fayetteville.
There aren’t currently openings at Auburn or Tennessee, but Gene Chizik and Derek Dooley are on some very thin ice and there are cracks all around them. They’re on the shovel, sliding down the hill, and young George Bailey is watching. That’s the ice they’re on. (And there’s nothing wonderful about that life. Rimshot!)
A few weeks ago I was told by some very influential UT boosters as well as an industry source that Petrino would be a “sure thing” winner in Knoxville and he’d have no contract leverage which would make him a hot candidate for the Vols should they move on from Dooley. I spoke to one of those same sources this past week and he said there had been so much blowback regarding Petrino that it’s now doubtful Tennessee would chase him even if the school has an opening.
And then there’s Auburn. Since Chizik arrived on the Plains it’s been one scandal after another — Cam Newton, an HBO investigation, secret audio tapes, players involved in a burglary ring, and now rumors of a new NCAA probe. If AU blows Chizik up then president Jay Gogue might have to nuke AD Jay Jacobs as well. So there are legitimate questions as to who’ll be calling the shots on a potential coaching search as well as whether or not scandal-ridden Auburn can afford to hire someone who lost his last job due to… a scandal.
Petrino is an excellent coach and he can be locked into a very favorable contract by any school making a play for him. Sounds great. But would an AD trust him? And would a fanbase in the Bible Belt forgive him enough to support him? (I find that last part ironic since the Bible’s Gospels are all about forgiveness.)
Well, it all depends on how desperate schools are to win and win quickly. Petrino will have someone’s program flying sky high soon. Trouble is, the coach also carries more baggage than Delta airlines.