Is it okay to speculate on the next football coach at a college that hasn’t fired it’s current coach?
It's generally not considered kosher—and apparently needed to be put in memo-form based on Monday's Arkansas Razorbacks TD Club luncheon interview of Hogs coach John L. Smith.
Asked whether his disgraced predecessor, Bobby Petrino, would be coaching Kentucky or Auburn in 2013, Smith went ahead and said he thought Petrino would end up at Auburn. I’m sure that Tigers’ coach Gene Chizik—who won the BCS Championship in 2011—was surprised to hear his job being put up for grabs.
Smith—ever the loose cannon—had a bad day on Monday. He expressed surprise at the state of Alabama being upset at the plight of his underachieving 1-3 team. I doubt Alabama gives a damn, however I do know that the proud residents of the state of Arkansas sure care.
Welcome to the dysfunctional world of big-time college football. Should Smith have been asked about Petrino’s future? Probably not that question specifically. Should he have answered it the way he did? Probably not. But since he did, let’s examine. My apologies to both Chizik and Kentucky coach Joker Phillips.
To top it all off, Smith got the question wrong. I know that many will say Chizik has underachieved without Cam Newton under center, but I can’t fathom Auburn looking to replace him next year. Another “poor” year or two and the alums and boosters who ousted Terry Bowden with a record of 47-17 will come looking at Chizik. Mrs. Chizik doesn’t have to pack just yet though.
Dr. Leslie Phillips might have to make plans to move from Lexington though. I’m sure her husband is a fine guy and probably a pretty good coach, but he’s in a tough situation. Kentucky football has barely been relevant in it’s long history. We know about the curse of the Babe and the Cubs’ problem with the goat, but Kentucky football has its own future changing incident to deal with.
Paul “Bear” Bryant took over the Wildcats in 1946. In 1953, Bryant was told by Kentucky administration that he wasn’t allowed to integrate his football team. He left for Texas A&M and Alabama and won six National Championships. Kentucky’s football fortunes? Not so much.
Bryant’s Kentucky record was 60-23-6. Kentucky’s record without him is 518-549-38.
Joker Phillips’ two year record is 11-14. Bobby Petrino’s record at Louisville and Arkansas is 75-26 with a 4-2 bowl record.
We make decisions by weighing the upside versus the downside. There’s quite a bit to look at when deciding on whether or not to hire Bobby Petrino.
The man can flat out coach. Tremendous upside on the field.
Off the field, Petrino has demonstrated questionable character going back to 2003, when after one year as Louisville head coach, he secretly interviewed for the Auburn job while Tommy Tuberville still had it.
In July of 2006, he signed a 10-year $25.6 million extension at Louisville. Six months later he left to become the head coach of the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons.
On December 11, 2007, with three games left in the season, Petrino resigned from the Falcons to take the Arkansas job. He resigned by leaving notes in his players’ lockers.
I’m not going to rehash the details of the well publicized motorcycle accident, affair and misconduct that got Petrino fired at Arkansas.
Those are the two sides of the ledger that Kentucky Athletic Director Mitch Barnhart has to weigh.
Would Barnhart consider hiring Petrino? Absolutely. While he may be a lousy employee, Petrino is a great football coach. He’d hardly be the first disgraced coach to get another chance. Just ask Central Florida's George O'Leary and UTEP's Mike Price.
In this world of sell your soul to the devil to win, Bobby Petrino will be back on the college sidelines. Kentucky fits the profile of the school that would hire him. An irrelevant program looking to get a seat at the big boy college football table.
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