College football just can’t get rid of Bobby Petrino.
Nearly eight years after he left the Hogs football program smoldering in a ditch southeast of Fayetteville, and more than two years after he was fired from Louisville, Bobby Petrino is back. And this time, he’s only be a couple hours from northwest Arkansas.
Chad Plein, sports anchor of KY3, central Missouri’s most lube-y sounding news station, on Tuesday night reported multiple sources told him Bobby Petrino will be Missouri State’s next head coach.
On Wednesday morning, it was made official. Petrino will be announced at the PRIME Overtime Club at JQH Arena on Thursday morning at 8:45 a.m as the most nationally recognizable head coach in Missouri State sports history.
Yahoo! Sports writer Pete Thamel reported Petrino agreed to a five-year contract that pays $250,000 per season — a steep drop from the $2.85 million he made per year as the Hogs’ head coach in 2008-2012.
For a while, things got really weird.
On Tuesday, the outlet FootballScoop.com announced the hugely controversial Art Briles would be named the MSU coach instead of Petrino.
Briles, the father of Arkansas offensive coordinator of Kendal Briles, is best known for his ignominious exit from Baylor. He was fired from Baylor in 2016 amid the school’s sexual assault scandal.
For sure, Missouri State would have gotten extreme criticism for hiring Art Briles. It’s getting less flak with Petrino, but there is plenty already there. Here’s a Tweet by longtime college football pundit Pat Forde, a resident of Louisville and current writer with Sports Illustrated:
Bobby Petrino has a head coaching job again in college football. Missouri State is the latest in a long line of places willing to have his tenure end badly on its watch.— Pat Forde (@ByPatForde) January 15, 2020
Rest assured, plenty more shade is coming Missouri State’s way. The last season Petrino coached, after all, was a specular failure at Louisville.
It was Chad Morris-level bad.
This one, too, will probably end badly. But won’t it be fun while the ride lasts in Springfield? Hog fans should circle September 17, 2022, which just got a whole lot more interesting.
That’s the date Missouri State plays at Arkansas.
Bobby Petrino Chokes Up, Apologizes to Hog Fans in Little Rock Speech
Published September 9, 2019
The Bobby Petrino saga just keeps taking new twists and turns.
The coach responsible for the high point of Arkansas football’s SEC era, as well as its low point, and all the mostly depressing seasons since then — culminating in a Razorback program that is now one of the least favored SEC teams to contend for a national title according to fan-sportsbook.com — made his first public appearance back in the state on September 9th.
“I wanted to be able to come here and to apologize to everybody, the fans, the players, and truly tell you how sorry I am for the way it ended,” Petrino said at the Little Rock Touchdown Club’s luncheon. As he went on, he really choked up or did a good job acting like he was. “But I also wanted to come here to thank you for everything people in this room, in this state, did for me and my family,” he continued. “You were great to us. You are a special, special group. Special crowd. You don’t really understand how much of an effect you have on players and their families.”
Watch him say this at the 6:05 mark:
Bobby Petrino’s Little Rock speech:
He then received a standing ovation, just as he had when he’d walked into the room a few minutes beforehand. Such a reception means a select group of Razorback fans are ready to forgive him for his affair, crash and attempted cover-up.
Other fans, though, are still plenty upset and won’t go through the effort of watching any of the 40-minute speech in the video above. Whatever Bobby says, however he acts, they won’t trust it to be sincere.
Here’s more from his speech:
On wanting to coach again:
“I miss being around the coaching staff. I love sitting around with the coaches and game planning and working with them on preparing the guys. And then Saturdays are a little boring right now. The competitive spirit is still there and I’m trying to get myself in the best possible shape I can. And if I get another opportunity to coach, I’m going to come out and do the best I can.”
On missing coaching the student-athletes (despite his reputation as hard-driving coach who doesn’t bond well with most players):
“I miss being around the players. I miss trying to help players excel and become the best they could possibly be, on the field and off the field — and understanding their responsibilities in the classroom. Understanding their responsibilities in the classroom and getting their degree and them understanding how much that really means and how much it can help them when football’s over with, because that’s one thing college players need to understand is that it ends at some point, whether that’s after college or three years in the NFL or 10 years, whatever it is, at some point it’s over with. And you’re a young man, and you’ve got a lot of life ahead of you. So you got to try to prepare them for that.”
On Cobi Hamilton and Cobi’s Pretty Hair:
“He was probably as talented as any of them, big, fast, could really run after the catch. But really liked his hair. He had pretty hair. He had long hair. There was one time where I’m calling for him, I’m on the sideline, “Cobi, Cobi,” and I couldn’t find him. And then so I just had to call a different play. And then he comes up next to me and taps me on the shoulder and says, “Coach.” I said, “Where were you? Combing your hair?” And he just started laughing.”
“He had a smile on his face, never let anything get to him. And he thought of himself as a cowboy. He liked horses, he rode horses. I’ve seen a few pictures of him with cowboy hat on and in the saddle. So it takes all kinds to make a football team. I think that’s what’s special about football players and football teams is everybody comes from other, whatever it is, and you got to mold them together and become one. And those group of receivers really helped us do that.”
The backstory of his historic talk is in the below, previously published post:
The Bobby Petrino speech is already sold out.
In fact, Petrino’s appearance will be historic. The Little Rock Touchdown Club has hosted weekly speakers during football seasons since 2004, and before now has only sold out during the Razorback head coaches’ appearances in the kickoff luncheon every fall.
Petrino’s appearance is the first sellout after the first week, according to LRTD founder David Bazzel. Maximum capacity for the site, the DoubleTree Hotel, is 600 people standing room only, he added.
Bazzel’s invitation of Petrino has sparked considerable controversy. Some Hog fans want nothing to do with him after the disgrace he brought to the program. “Why would you bring such a loser at life back to talk?,” Jeff Smith asked on the fan site Razorback Country. “And talk about what? He left four football programs in horrible condition. Louisville x 2, Atlanta Falcon and our Hogs.”
Still, as this sellout shows, there are plenty of fans who do want to hear from Petrino. The twist, in this case, is that direct questions won’t be allowed from the audience (this will also be the case with Urban Meyer, who speaks on Oct. 7). Still, Bazzel will ask questions and fans can make their requests known.
Earlier, I polled Hog fans on this site’s Facebook page about what they would ask Petrino if they could. I got a range of responses, ranging from the absurdly hilarious (“Will you OC for the Hogs??” – Mike Denham) to the would-love-to-see-the-look-on-his-face funny (“Did you crash or did you get your butt whipped?” – Mike Van Dyke).
But the most common is simply “Why?” in reference to Petrino’s affair with Jessica Dorrell and attempt to cover it up. If Petrino had a chance to do it all over again, what would he do differently?
The speech will provide a glimpse into how much — if any — Petrino has been humbled by his repeated failures, the most recent at Louisville. As some Cardinal sportswriters are fond of saying, he drove that football program into a “2-10 ditch” last season.
However, so far, it appears Louisville is rebounding much more strongly than Arkansas did in the aftermath of Petrino’s 2012 motorcycle wreck. Instead of a John L. Smith style joker, they hired a very competent replacement in Scott Satterfield. After Louisville played No. 9 Notre Dame closely in its season opener, it appears Satterfield has breathed new life into former Petrino-coachd players like quarterback Juwon Pass.
” Yes, the junior quarterback lost three fumbles and completed just 12 of 27 passes for 134 yards without a touchdown” against Notre Dame, Kentucky sportswriter John Clay wrote. “But under Petrino’s hot glare last year, Pass was an indecisive mess behind center. He rarely appeared to know what to do and what he did do usually brought a chewing out from Petrino. Following in [Heisman Trophy winner] Lamar Jackson’s footsteps would be tough for any quarterback. Pass was overwhelmed.”
The better Louisville plays with much of the same team Petrino left, the harder it will be for him to get another job coaching at the major Division I level.
The irony in all of this is that it’s his failure which make Petrino so polarizing and buzz worthy in the first place. We all, on some level, can relate to failing over and over again in the midst of successes. We all experience ups and downs. Petrino is more interesting (and arguably more relatable) as a human than someone like Nick Saban who seems to always prevail over himself and opponents.
Still, Bobby Petrino isn’t “relatable” to most of us in any conventional sense. He’s setting this attendance record despite being one of the least charismatic speakers in the history of the Little Rock Touchdown Club. It’s his lows, as much as his highs, which will pack the room.
Want more exclusive breakdowns on the world of Razorback sports. Check out my most recent post:
Background on Petrino’s Little Rock Speech
Petrino is one of the 15 speakers scheduled to take the podium at the Little Rock Touchdown Club this fall:
8/20 Chad Morris
8/26 Ryan Mallett
9/3 Mark Richt
9/9 Bobby Petrino
9/16 Dan Hampton
9/23 Hunter Yurachek
9/30 Bill Snyder
10/7 Urban Meyer
10/14 Bill Montgomery
10/21 Houston Nutt
10/28 Nathan Brown (UCA)
11/4 Blake Anderson (ASU)
11/19 Greg Sankey (SEC)
11/25 Bill Curry
1/9/20 Herschel Walker
That’s quite the list. Well done by my man, David Bazzel, whom Frank Broyles once told me had done more for the Razorback brand nationwide than anybody besides Broyles himself.
Bobby Petrino, of course, boosted the Razorback brand like no other SEC-era head coach, taking Arkansas to a No. 3 national ranking, an 11-win season and its only BCS bowl appearance.
It seemed he was a salty defense away from putting together a Razorbacks team that could truly challenge for a national title. But a motorcycle crash in the spring of 2012 changed everything, ultimately leading Jeff Long to fire Petrino after he had lied about an affair with Jessica Dorrell, then an Arkansas athletic department employee.
“During Long’s investigation, it was discovered that Petrino made a previously undisclosed $20,000 cash gift to Dorrell as a Christmas present,” the multi-sourced Wikipedia article on Petrino states. “It was also revealed that Dorrell may have received preferential treatment in her hiring on the football staff, as Petrino’s relationship with Dorrell was not disclosed and Petrino was on the hiring committee.”
“Long determined that Petrino’s attempts to mislead both him and the public about the accident and his relationship with Dorrell were grounds to fire Petrino for cause. Long also determined that the $20,000 payment could expose Arkansas to a sexual harassment suit if Petrino were retained.”
In the years since then, it seems Petrino has steered clear of motorcycles and former volleyball players. But the theme of mismanaged funds has persisted.
In his latest tenure in Louisville, Petrino massively overspent on his recruiting budget. Louisville football spent $709,180 during the 2017-18 school year, after having been budgeted $320,000 for expenses, according to figures provided by the university to the Courier Journal. The previous year, it spent $563,722, with a budget of $275,000.
Despite the overspending, Louisville still wasn’t pulling in classes better ranked than No. 30. This lack of success on the recruiting front is one of the reason the wheels fell of the Petrino mobile in 2018, a season after his superstar quarterback Lamar Jackson left early for the NFL.
In November, 2018, Bobby Petrino was fired at the end of an eventual 2-10 season. He apparently hasn’t done a single interview or made a speech of any sort since then.
It will be interested to see how much of his time in Louisville versus time in Arkansas he discusses while in Little Rock. No doubt, many in the audience will be dying to ask him questions about how much it haunts him that he couldn’t beat Alabama and LSU while at Arkansas, how much it haunts him that his libido was as high-octane as his offense and what he thinks that 2012 team would have done had he never let the raging horn-dog within get the best of him.