Wednesday, December 12, 2007
As improbable as I thought it could be, Bobby Petrino announced was leaving the Atlanta Falcons, languishing at 3-10, for the vacant head coaching position at Arkansas.
In a season filled with disastrous events, I bet this is the last thing Falcons owner Arthur Blank expected to happen this year.
But in some sick way, Louisville fans probably could have told Blank "let the buyer beware" because, simply put, Petrino is a serial liar. He is a good coach, but he is even better at avoiding the truth.
At Louisville, Petrino built the Cards into a fabulous football team, going 41-9 during his four years at the helm. But in just his second year on the job, he secretly met with a group of Auburn boosters looking to replace coach Tommy Tuberville. When confronted about the meeting by UofL athletic director Tom Jurich, Petrino lied about it and said it didn't happen. Only after Jurich was able to confirm it through other sources was Petrino caught with his pants down.
Petrino was forced to make an embarrasing public apology and vowed at that time he was committed to Louisville. There were rumblings at the time that Jurich was ready to fire him, but he let Petrino stay on. The Cards kept winning.
Then about a year later, after the Auburn fiasco has seemingly blown over, Petrino's name started swirling as a possible replacement for Nick Saban at LSU. So what did Petrino do? He met with LSU representatives in Nashville - as the Cards were on their way to Memphis to play Boise State in the Liberty Bowl. Again, Petrino apparently only acknowledged the meeting to Jurich and his staff after it had been leaked to the press.
Determined to keep Petrino at Louisville, Jurich somehow finagled a 10 year contract for Petrino, paying him more than $1 million a year - an unheard of salary for a football coach in a state dominated by basketball. Petrino held another press conference at which he expressed his love for UofL and flatly stated that he didn't want to coach or live anywhere else but Louisville.
Not a year later, Petrino was huddling with the Atlanta Falcons in Miami as UofL was preparing to play Wake Forest in the Orange Bowl.
After ESPN broke the news that Petrino was bolting for the Falcons, the head UofL's public relations department confronted Petrino about the report. Petrino denied it in its entirety, saying there wasn't an ounce of truth to the report. An hour later, he finally told the truth to his team that he was leaving, and he was off to Atlanta to be introduced as their new head coach.
I know Arkansas fans have to be thrilled to have a new coach, and I know Petrino has to be relieved bailing out of a losing situation in Atlanta. But sure as I write this, Petrino is already on the lookout for the next big opportunity for himself - and damn whoever else might be lost in the wake.
Arkansas has a great program and great tradition, but Petrino will cast that all aside if the right buyer comes along. Watch and see.