New Western Kentucky coach Bobby Petrino will open his career with the Hilltoppers in Nashville next season against Kentucky. It’ll be his shot to prove that a vocal segment of the Wildcat fanbase knew more about hiring a football coach than UK athletic director Mitch Barnhart does.
Barnhart, of course, ignored those calling for Petrino to be hired in Lexington and hired Florida State defensive coordinator Mark Stoops instead. Yesterday — in a very good, two-part interview with The Louisville Courier Journal — Barnhart was asked why he passed on the ex-Arkansas coach. His answer included a reminder to those who wanted Petrino that he wasn’t along in naming the Cats’ new coach:
“Well, you know, no question he’s a good football coach. That was never a question. But looking for the right fit for us and what we wanted to be about, and looking at the whole package for what I thought Kentucky — where we needed to be in this moment in time, Mark was the right fit for us. We needed someone who wanted to be here, who fit the parameters that I had for what we were looking for in the search. And I’m not doing this solo; DeWayne (Peevy) and Marc Hill, and I visited with Tim (Couch) and coach (John) Cropp and all those folks. We just sort of visited about it: What does it look like? We need to be better defensively. We need to be better in the areas of recruiting. We need to have somebody that can get us in here and here and here. And how do you answer this component over here offensively? So Mark had answers for all that, and he fit the things that we were looking for. I tell everybody all the time: We’re not responsible for just one thing. It’s really easy to be responsible for just winning and losing. It’s really incumbent upon us, especially in today’s world – look around us, all the headlines that are going around us – it is incumbent upon us being responsible for every component of what goes on here. And for me and the fit and the things that I want to be about here at Kentucky, Mark fit that.”
That seems to be a nice way of saying, “I wasn’t gonna hire that guy if he was the last man on earth,” which is basically what UK insiders had told us at the time of Barnhart’s search.
Stoops may well end up being the right hire for the long haul in the Bluegrass State. But if Petrino bests him in the next season’s opener, you better believe Barnhart will be reminded about his decision by all those blue-clad fans who wanted Petrino on the Cats’ sideline next season.