Bobby Petrino is a finalist for the Louisville job. His successful past at the school creates a comfort level. Public support for his return appears to be substantial. Louisville hiring him, though, would be a desperate move. It’s a hire an up-and-coming program does not need to make.
Petrino is unsavory in his personal life. He cheated on his wife, hooked his mistress up with a cushy public job at Arkansas and had it all unravel in an embarrassing motorcycle accident.
Before that, he was unsavory in his professional life. He secretly interviewed for the Auburn job while his former boss Tommy Tuberville still held it. Petrino later signed a (by 2006 standards) massive, 10-year contract to stay at Louisville. He left six months later for the Atlanta Falcons. He then left the Falcons after 13 games for the Arkansas job, informing his players by formal letter.
He has been humbled, to be sure. But it’s not clear Petrino has reformed, or can reform. His wrongdoings were willful. They weren’t mistakes. They were character indictments. He’s a liar. He acts out of complete self-interest. He erred by getting caught.
Petrino would neither be the first nor the only prick to hold a head coaching job. Louisville already employs a high-profile adulterer as its head basketball coach. But whether Petrino “deserves” another prime head coaching job is not the issue. His merits and deficiencies “deserve” consideration within a fair marketplace like anyone else.
The question is why Louisville would even consider Petrino. There’s the personal history: he’s scorned the program multiple times. But it also would be diving head first into an odious well, when the school has no need to do so.
Louisville is an attractive job. Charlie Strong improved the talent base. They move to a major conference next season. There is a renovated stadium and new football facilities. It’s a school that has been willing to invest to be successful at sports (highest paid public AD, second-highest paid basketball coach). Tom Jurich hiring Petrino is just unimaginative.
There are other coaches, such as former Louisville assistant Jim McElwain, who would be successful there. It would also be a job big enough to attract just about any assistant coach in the country. Pat Narduzzi? Chad Morris? Doug Nussmeier? Derek Mason? Is there an option there demonstrably worse than hiring Petrino? Some may argue Louisville should not hire a first-time head coach from among the hottest coordinators. It worked out well last time.
Uncertainty breeds distress. Time softens the memories of past relationships. But Louisville has a lot going for it. Don’t let the ex-boyfriend weasel his way back in.