Except for the U.S. Congress, there’s no bigger dumpster fire in America than the one raging right now in college football. Normally, that would be a reference to the multitudes of players in the transfer portal. However, we can’t forget about the yearly game of musical chairs among the coaching ranks that is still in full swing.
While Arkansas football fans were reeling from being the program that can claim a tie with Texas A&M for the most players in the transfer portal in the country, they for a couple days had to deal with the prospect that one of their best assistant coaches would leave for Starkville, Miss., of all places.
It can also happen that a coach still trying to figure out where the break room is at one school decides to move on to greener pastures at another. That is the case for former Arkansas head coach Bobby Petrino, who will join Jimbo Fisher in College Station as Texas A&M’s offensive coordinator.
A case could be made that the University of Arkansas is at the center of said dumpster fire. Indeed, Petrino had just been hired by Barry Odom at UNLV as offensive coordinator in December. In case you’ve already forgotten, Odom served as the Hogs’ defensive coordinator for the past three seasons.
Certainly, given Petrino’s journeyman past, Odom had to know this was a gamble. Unfortunately for him, he’s left with an eight showing and a four underneath while the dealer just hit blackjack. Meanwhile, Petrino hit the jackpot and — much like Hugh Freeze — is getting a chance to redeem himself by coaching in the SEC again.
Impact on Arkansas Football
This is not a direct loss to the Arkansas football program, but without question it could lead to future losses on the field for the Hogs.
For most fans, even those who don’t particularly like Petrino, his offensive mind earns begrudging respect not only for his play calling ability, but his quarterback development. Who doesn’t remember Tyler Wilson stepping in for an injured Ryan Mallett against Cam Newton and Auburn and throwing for more than 300 yards?
In Petrino, Arkansas fans knew beyond a shadow of a doubt they had someone who knew the Xs and Os as well, or better, than almost any coach in the country. The kind of barbs thrown at Kendal Briles for suspect play calling were few and far between during Petrino’s tenure. And any Arkansas fan being honest with himself or herself feared what he might do last season when his Missouri State Bears came to Fayetteville and hung 27 points and racked up 409 total yards against a lackluster, but still SEC, Arkansas defense.
On the surface, it seems like a good fit for Petrino because he’ll have more elite athletes at his disposal than he’s had since coaching the Atlanta Falcons.
Bobby Petrino’s Winding Career
How long will Arkansas fans have to see him in maroon on the other sideline? That’s anyone’s guess. Petrino’s never been anywhere for long. He’s 61 years old and has been a head coach since 2003, with six different stops — including a not-even-full season stint as the head coach of the Falcons.
The way he has left each of those teams has been a source of controversy and may not bode well for Fisher, or any future coach or athletic director who might want to hire him. He’s got a giant ego, and one thing’s clear: Bobby is looking out for Bobby.
Arkansas hired him from the Falcons and it was reported that he left without personally telling the team. Before that, he tried to go around the back of Tommy Tuberville to meet with boosters and tried to secure the head coaching job at Auburn while he was head coach at Louisville.
He left Western Kentucky after one season to take back his old position at Louisville, where he had previously led them to the Orange Bowl. In his re-hire, he made it sound like he wanted to draw his last breath as head coach of the Cardinals. And once again, he showed his QB development skills by coaching Lamar Jackson to the Heisman Trophy in 2016. However, in 2018, after Jackson declared for the NFL in 2017, Petrino was flailing with a 2-8 record, at which point Louisville told him it would prefer that he draw his last breath elsewhere.
He spent three seasons at Missouri State, where he lost postseason appearances in each of his first two years, and this past season he went 5-6.
Paul Finebaum Weighs In
Yes, there seems to be a pattern with Petrino. Build it up quickly and, when things go South, he either gets fired, has a motorcycle wreck or moves on to some other program that wants quick results.
“We fixate on the Harley motorcycle Bobby Petrino, but this guy has always been a snake in the grass,” college football personality Paul Finebaum said during a recent radio interview. “We act like Bobby Petrino is a savant, that he’s never failed, but, quite frankly, he did fail at Louisville. He got fired there in his second go-round. That’s on top of the other malfeasances that have occurred in his clock.”
For Jimbo Fisher’s part, he’s no stranger to controversy resulting from his Texas-sized ego either. In fact, it could easily be argued that his ego outruns his IQ. I mean, who takes on Nick Saban from where Fisher sits?
Compared to Saban, he’s a house cat who thinks he’s a lion. Anytime you take on the guy who will probably go down in history as the best college coach in history and then crow about winning your fourth game of the season in late November against UMass as if you’d just set the world on fire, then your ego has outrun your IQ.
Don’t bet on the two of them being able to co-exist for long.
If I were Barry Odom, I’d run down to the Belagio and wager the under for how long it will take for the egos of Fisher and Petrino to clash. I would double up on it if I could confirm that he still has a motorcycle.
When Petrino and Fisher inevitably go their separate ways, Arkansas football fans will likely wonder aloud: “Who didn’t see that coming?”
More coverage of Bobby Petrino from BoAS…