Though it’s fair to make humorous quips about Bobby Petrino and motorcycles, the truth is the guy is a great football coach.
Petrino,, who has left a string of haters longer than Nick Saban's in his wake, started his head coaching odyssey at Louisville in 2003, tried his hand at the NFL at Atlanta in 2007 and landed the Arkansas job in 2008.
There, he took a Razorbacks program skidding from the ill effects of the 10-season Houston Nutt era and transformed it into a fierce competitor with a realistic shot at the SEC title and a national championship.
Petrino led Arkansas to back-to-back double-digit win seasons in 2010 and 2011, which culminated in the program's first top-five finish since 1977.
But the glory and potential all crashed suddenly and dramatically when Petrino was, per Tom Weir at USA Today, fired in April 2012 after providing misleading information about a motorcycle accident. The incident uncovered a bigger scandal, which involved Petrino's hiring of—and inappropriate relationship with—a 25-year-old female member of his staff.
After taking the 2012 season off, Petrino resurfaced when he was hired to replace head coach Willie Taggart at Western Kentucky, per the Associated Press (via ESPN.com).
The Hilltoppers, hailing from the Sun Belt Conference, kicked off the Petrino era with a 35-26 Week 1 win over Kentucky, the first of two consecutive SEC opponents, but fell from grace in a 52-20 turnover-ridden loss to Tennessee this past Saturday.
With a 1-1 start and 14 returning starters from a 7-6 finish last season (which included the program’s first bowl appearance), it doesn't seem premature to say Western Kentucky is nothing more than a short-term launch pad for Petrino.
Petrino is a lot of things, but he’s also a proven winner. In the high-stakes game of college football, that means his name soon will appear on coaching wish lists.
While it would be a stretch to say USC or Texas would consider Petrino—both can afford to skip over guys with baggage—it’s not far-fetched to say that other BCS programs would view him as a realistic candidate.
The following programs have a potential need for a new coach and are on a long-term quest to become relevant in a big-time BCS conference.
Missouri's shift to the SEC and Gary Pinkel's diminishing returns make this job almost the perfect fit for Petrino.
First, you have a coach who has done all he can at his given job. In other words, even without the move from the Big 12 to the SEC, Pinkel might have passed the point of no return at Missouri.
Next, you have what is a solid but quiet program in the SEC East. The East is somewhat less daunting than the West, but offers all the big bang if you can win it.
Plus, Petrino wouldn’t have to start over or build from the ashes at Missouri like he would be forced to do at a program like Kentucky, Washington State, Kansas or UConn.
The Missouri job is still a quality position. The program is in need of a makeover, but not a tear-down or rebuild.
A step down the ladder from the Missouri, Kansas is a place coaches go to one day see their names atop a “hot seat” listing.
Yes, it's hard to keep out of trouble at a place like Kansas.
But this job is positioned in a major conference and is not as daunting a challenge given the relative strength of the Big 12 compared to the tougher SEC and Pac-12.
So, resurrecting the Kansas program is not the same thing as trying to get it done in a double-division SEC with Alabama, Georgia, LSU, South Carolina and Florida.
Though Charlie Weis is in only his second season at Kansas, his 1-11 debut in 2012 leaves little confidence he will be considered a long-term solution.
Illinois oozes with potential, and its Big Ten address makes it an interesting scenario for a guy like Petrino.
Think about it. If Petrino wants a do-over, why not leave the South and try to pound it out in the Big Ten?
The relative weakness of the Big Ten has to make this job attractive to Petrino, who would have a much easier path to glory here than in the SEC, Pac-12 or Big 12.
Tim Beckman has proved that bringing the Illini back to life may be more difficult than advertised, especially since he is building on the devastating 2-10 mark from his debut in 2012.
But before you put all the blame on Beckman's shoulders, don't forget Illinois has only risen above the eight-win mark once since going 10-2 in 2001.
The first issue when considering Petrino for the Mississippi State job is whether the Bulldogs would part ways with Dan Mullen.
Mullen is in his fifth year at MSU and has fashioned a 29-23 record. But no matter how you slice it, one Top 25 finish in four tries may not cut it.
Under Mullen, the Bulldogs have never finished better than fourth place in the SEC West.
Mississippi State is another nearly perfect fit for Petrino, who likely won't have a shot at “better” jobs like LSU or Tennessee.
Mississippi State offers a big-time division (the best in the game) and a program that is moving in the right direction. The key word here is "moving"—as opposed to stagnant and troubled.
Though it would be disappointing to see Mullen go—regardless of the circumstances—it would thrilling to see Petrino take over in Starkville and scare the dickens out of the rest of the West.
Under Mike Riley, Oregon State has been like a girlfriend with multiple personalities, which makes you wonder how long the relationship can last.
From a 10-4 finish in 2006 to the depths of a 3-9 mark in 2011 and back to a 9-4 finish in 2012, Riley has been all over the place.
With the No. 25 Beavers' 49-46 loss to FCS Eastern Washington in Week 1, the crazy ride continues.
Petrino at Oregon State would be an even further departure—geographically and otherwise—than if he were to take over at Illinois.
Though it would be a difficult post, Oregon State wouldn’t be as fraught with obstacles as Kansas or Illinois. It would be more like Mississippi State—a solid program in a tough-as-nails division (the Beavers share an address with Oregon and Stanford).
And if you don’t think the Beavers would hire him, remember this is the same school that gave Dennis Erickson a shot back in 1999.
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