Bobby Petrino will be the Louisville Cardinals’ football coach for the second time, the school announced Thursday.
Petrino, 52, has the best win percentage of any Louisville Cardinals football coach and led the team to a major postseason victory in the Orange Bowl. He had a 41-9 record during his first tenure with UofL from 2003 to 2006. In all, he has 83 career win and is known for his team’s offensive prowess.
But controversial things happened during his time at UofL—and after. There was the meeting about an Auburn Tigers job that wasn’t open yet. Quitting the Atlanta Falcons before finishing his first season, reportedly notifying players with a sticky note. And then the Arkansas situation.
Petrino had a relatively good 2013—generally uneventful in things terribly negative. Western Kentucky hired him in late 2012 and his Hilltoppers finished 8-4, with wins over Kentucky, Navy and Army.
Now, on Thursday, Petrino officially comes back to where his head coaching career began, taking over a team a year removed from a Sugar Bowl victory.
Here’s a timeline of his head coaching career so far:
If you’re having trouble seeing the graphic, go here.
Now, Petrino later this year will lead the Louisville Cardinals into their first season in the Atlantic Coast Conference, from which the new national champion Florida State Seminoles hail.
Reaction in local and national media has been mixed.
WDRB’s Eric Crawford—a reporter on the aforementioned Auburn interview story from back in the day—is questioning any possible “changed man” narrative that may following Petrino to Louisville. Crawford writes:
I want to talk about Western Kentucky. My guess is that we’re going to hear a lot of “changed man” narrative over the next couple of days. I’ve interviewed Petrino since he arrived at WKU. He said he’s changed. He has more of a personal relationship with players, he said. He tries to coach the total person, he said, not just the football player.
U of L athletic director Tom Jurich is famous for doing his homework. He talks to everybody. I’m interested to see what his discussions in Bowling Green turned up. Here’s why. I’ve only had four or five conversations with folks down there, and they did not paint the picture of a changed man.
Sports Illustrated’s Stewart Mandel criticizes Louisville athletics director Tom Jurich:
Now we’re getting a better window into why Jurich’s teams win so much. He apparently cares about nothing else. If he did he wouldn’t possibly hire back Petrino.
None of us should trust Bobby Petrino. He’s earned that doubt. But if there was ever a situation where Petrino would be loyal enough to focus all of his attention on achieving the task assigned to him by his employer, this would be it. Career restoration will fuel that same effort, sure, but it’s impossible for Petrino not to feel like he owes Jurich a great deal right now.
WFPL’s Rick Howlett and Jacob Ryan are covering Thursday’s announcement. We’ll have quotes from Petrino and fan reaction coming up soon.