The sky is falling! The sky is falling!
Listen to any of the sports talk radio stations in the Knoxville area and the above sentiment would have rang loud and clear on Thursday afternoon. With the Tennessee football program having now gone more than two weeks without hiring the coach to replace Derek Dooley, fans seem to be in the process of looking for the panic button.
And a look at Twitter and Facebook on Thursday evening reveals that the mood of Vol Nation has not improved with the news from the SST Radio Show that Cincinnati's Butch Jones has moved near the top of athletic director Dave Hart's list of choices.
After being turned down by Oklahoma State's Mike Gundy and Louisville's Charlie Strong in the space of only a few hours the day before, callers to WNML radio were throwing out all sorts of names. Dennis Green, Rex Ryan and any number of coordinators with various professional and college teams were being bandied about. Hosts were left almost speechless at some of the suggestions.
But of all the names being tossed around east Tennessee, Bobby Petrino's came up perhaps as frequently as any out there.
The coach's resume comes with a great deal of merit. In four seasons at the University of Louisville, Petrino amassed a 41-9 record with four bowl appearances.
After a brief stint with the NFL's Atlanta Falcons, Petrino returned to the college ranks at Arkansas where he went 34-17 in four seasons of SEC play. In 2011, the Razorbacks finished with an 11-2 overall mark, a Cotton Bowl victory and a ranking of 5th in the final polls.
If you were an athletic director, would you hire Bobby Petrino?
Few coaches can boast such a record, especially out of those who are available for hiring by a program in need of a head football coach.
Obviously, there is more to the story as to why Petrino is available. As has been well documented, he bolted from Louisville just after signing a lucrative contract extension and a issuing a promise to stay for the long term. Then, he assured Falcons' owner Arthur Blank that he was not looking to leave just before accepting the Arkansas job midway through the 2007 NFL campaign. Finally, the coach's troubles at Arkansas, which included a number of issues related to an affair with a woman who worked inside the university's athletic program and her hiring for that job, became the subject of much coverage.
That's why a coach with such a fine record sits waiting for his phone to ring. And it certainly does not look as if Tennessee is calling.
Consider that Petrino's stock has clearly dropped and that he could likely be hired at a greatly reduced rate for a coach with such a resume. And hiring him would likely assure the Tennessee team a winning record and contender status in relatively short order. Yet he remains without an offer.
While many callers to sports talk shows say that they are not concerned about Petrino's marital troubles, the real issue runs deeper than that. Over and over, this coach has left jobs under less-than-admirable circumstances. Previous athletic directors, team owners and fans have been misled just prior to his exit from three consecutive jobs.
What potential boss wants to be the next to run the risk of having the same fate befall him? Apparently not Dave Hart.
If Tennessee had wanted Bobby Petrino, they could have hired him at a reasonable price days ago. It's not like he is wading through a pile of serious offers. He would already be arranging his office in Knoxville and the list of choices would not have dropped to Butch Jones had the Vols wanted the embattled former coach.