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ISSUE: WKU hires Bobby Petrino
OUR VIEW: It honestly might work
Bobby Petrino has been named the new head football coach at Western Kentucky University after Willie Taggert agreed to take the same position at the University of South Florida.
University of Louisville fans are secretly saying “best of luck” to the WKU faithful. The Cardinal faithful remember the sudden departure of Petrino to the NFL following a 12-1 season and a successful trip to the Orange Bowl. When the Falcons waived a five-year, $24 million contract in front of Petrino he snapped it up like a dog that hadn’t seen food for a week.
The contract he walked out on with Louisville was a 10-year, $25 million contract he had signed just one year prior to his departure. During his four-year tenure at Louisville, he compiled a 41-9 record with four bowl trips. Petrino was very effective at returning Louisville to the landscape of major college football programs.
Petrino’s reputation for building winning college football programs is at the very least, impressive. He served as the head football coach at the University of Arkansas for four years following his stint in the NFL and appeared to have the Razorbacks on the doorstep of greatness.
The problem with Petrino isn’t related to his ability or effectiveness as a football coach. It certainly isn’t related to a lack of knowledge regarding how to design a high-powered offense. On those points it could be arguable that Petrino is one of the absolute best. Petrino has no problem with creating and building enthusiasm in a fan base by winning football games.
The problem Petrino has had is with telling the truth and doing what he says he’s going to do.
He forced U of L into the 10-year contract implying that if they agreed to his terms he would complete the full contract. One year into the agreement he bolts from Louisville to join the Atlanta Falcons. Then when Arkansas comes knocking at the door he makes a public statement to Falcons owner Arthur Blankthat he would remain as the team’s head coach and was fully committed to its plan for success. Twenty-four hours later, Arkansas sweetens the deal and wham, Petrino is gone. By the way he walked out on Atlanta with three games left in the 2007 season.
When Petrino arrived in Arkansas, he inherited a program that was 5-7 and 2-6 in the SEC. He built Arkansas into a national contender and recorded a 10-2 season in 2010 and the first BCS appearance for that program in the Sugar Bowl against Ohio State. This was followed by a win in the Cotton Bowl and 11-2 record in 2012.
Petrino knows how to win.
In April, Petrino was involved in a motorcycle crash that left him pretty beat up. Petrino said he was all alone when he lost control of his motorcycle. That was simply not the truth, in fact just minutes before a police report was to be released stating that Jessica Dorrell was on the bike with him at the time of the accident, Petrino confessed that he had lied. So what? Petrino had a female passenger on his bike when he wrecked it, not a big deal right?
Further investigation showed Dorrell was also a employee of the Arkansas football staff. Petrino had hired and they were involved in an adulterous relationship. Even to the extent that he gave her a $20,000 cash gift as a Christmas present. Not only did Petrino attempt to mislead authorities but also Athletic Director Jeff Long and the students, faculty and fans of the University of Arkansas.
It’s true everyone deserves a second chance and anyone can make a mistake. When asking for a second chance to be credible, it helps if it’s not the tenth time you’ve asked for forgiveness for the same error. Petrino arrives at WKU with a demonstrated pattern of misstatements and mistrust.
We wish WKU the absolute best in its coaching selection. Hopefully, his commitment to a change in character is sincere and he realizes WKU is a last chance to prove that. We also hope his transformation in integrity will allow him to feel some sense of loyalty to WKU for giving him this opportunity. Living on $850,000 per year or a salary of $16,346 per week may be difficult for Petrino. But at the very least he should be able to buy a new motorcycle and ride it alone.
This editorial represents a consensus of The News-Enterprise editorial board.