Is the coaching window closing on Bobby Petrino?
Twelve schools have hired head coaches since late November, and yet the embattled coach with a 75-26 career record still waits.
Fourteen schools have hired head coaches since late November, and yet the embattled coach with a 75-26 career record still waits.
The window is closing on Bobby Petrino, at least for the big-boy jobs. And by the way athletic directors and presidents seem to be taking a philosophical stand on a coach who violated the sacred trust with administration while at Arkansas, Petrino will have to remain patient -- possibly until next December.
Other than a reported phone conversation with Auburn, which the Birmingham News said focused on his publicized affair with Jessica Dorrell more than his coaching ability, Petrino hasn’t been a serious contender for jobs.
The two biggest jobs currently open, Colorado and Wisconsin, don't seem like a fit. Colorado athletics director Mike Bohn came out and said as much. There's some buzz about Arkansas State as a landing strip, but can Petrino still be welcome inside that state?
It’s uncertain how Petrino is navigating all this. As of November, Petrino is no longer with longtime agent Russ Campbell out of Birmingham. He’s rumored to be with David Dunn now. Efforts to reach Dunn were unsuccessful. Campbell declined comment on the matter.
Coaching was never the problem with Petrino, of course. Everyone knows Petrino can build a winner. And he’s done so at his last two college stops without causing NCAA trouble.
But can he be trusted? That’s a question administrators must answer "yes" to without hesitation when hiring a coach. And eight months removed from Petrino butchering employment rules at Arkansas -- hiring a mistress for a job in the football offices, misleading athletics director Jeff Long about the motorcycle crash and his relationship with Dorrell, forcing Long to mislead the public because he didn’t know all the facts -- it’s hard to get past all that, no matter how many victories Petrino might deliver. After all, presidents have to sign off on these hires, too.
Like the NFL draft, it only takes one team to believe in you. There could be a program that takes a chance. If this was all about coaching skill, Petrino would be on most everyone’s short list.
But in an era of yearly extensions for coaches and more money spent on football facilities than ever, cohesion between the athletic director and the coach is crucial. Both must have the same vision. It's partly why Charlie Strong eschewed Tennessee to stay at Louisville. He had built something with AD Tom Jurich.
There was a time not too long ago I thought Auburn would be best served boldly pursuing Petrino, who had enough edge to go after Nick Saban. But perhaps it was still too soon, the motorcycle tire marks in Madison County still too fresh, for Auburn athletics director Jay Jacobs to take such a risk. He hired Gus Malzahn instead.
Even the lower-level jobs might not need Petrino. Just look at the coaches leaving the MAC and the Sun Belt for bigger jobs in recent weeks -- Northern Illinois’ Dave Doeren (to N.C. State), Kent State’s Darrell Hazell (Purdue), Western Kentucky’s Willie Taggart (to USF).
The schools can replace these coaches using the same formula in which they found them, snagging the up-and-coming assistant who blazes a trail and moves on to a bigger job in 2-3 years.
If Petrino doesn’t find a head coaching job this year and doesn't want to wait, he would thrive as a coordinator. Any head coach with a sluggish offense at a major program would be foolish not to at least consider the instant improvement Petrino could provide. And the blowback would be less, since he wouldn’t shoulder the burden a head coach does.
Missouri needs a coordinator. Petrino could upgrade the Tigers’ passing attack and possibly re-invent himself as a viable head-coaching candidate in one to two years.
Otherwise, his December wait could be a quiet one.
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The former Oregon coach was most recently the coach of the San Francisco 49ers