Could a Petrino return keep Louisville moving forward?
Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich has proven time and time again that he is one of the premier ADs in the country. Jurich has been the architect behind countless facility renovations for the University of Louisville, stadium expansions and coaching hires.
He is credited with bringing basketball coach Rick Pitino to the Cardinals as well as being the driving voice behind the Cardinals' move to the ACC.
Now Jurich is faced with the task of finding the football coach best-suited for continuing Louisville's momentum. The Cardinals have gone 23-3 over the last two seasons, including back-to-back bowl victories and consecutive seasons in the Top 15.
Louisville football cannot afford to take a step backwards. Charlie Strong packed his bags for Texas last week and the search for his successor began. Several names have been linked to the Louisville job in the past week.
None have inspired as much emotion as former Cardinals head coach and current Western Kentucky bench boss Bobby Petrino.
Louisville fans have taken to Twitter in full force to voice both support and disgust at the idea of a Petrino-Louisville reunion.
In regards to second chances, if God gave you another day He gave you a second chance. Its usually our second act that brings out our best.— I can I will I Jon (@jondhile) January 7, 2014
My heart is dead set on bringing Bobby back! If it's anyone other than him, or Vance, I'll prolly cry, like a baby.— Jake Sandlin (@JSandlin502) January 6, 2014
I would love to see coach Petrino back on the sidelines at UofL...the personnel we currently have is built for Petrino's system. #L1C4— Brian Brohm (@BrianBrohm) January 5, 2014
4get Bobby We Need Ah New Coach.. It's Ah New Era.. Can't Bring Back The Old..— Woo_DaKid323 (@Yung_N_Blessed1) January 8, 2014
Pat Forde of Yahoo! Sports has reported that Petrino's return to Louisville is "imminent."
Athletic director Tom Jurich is expected to meet with Petrino's agent, David Dunn, Wednesday night to finalize contract details. The school plans to introduce Petrino Thursday. The Louisville Athletic Association's personnel committee has called a 10 a.m. ET meeting Thursday to discuss a personnel matter. The committee is expected to approve a contract for Petrino, and he will be formally introduced thereafter.
Petrino led the Cardinals from 2003-2006 and racked up an impressive 41-9 record at Louisville, including a victory in the 2006 Orange Bowl. He coached Western Kentucky to an 8-4 record this season and has a career record of 83-30.
Petrino's controversies are well-documented. He left Louisville in 2006 for the Atlanta Falcons and failed to finish a full season in Atlanta before taking over as head coach of the Arkansas Razorbacks. He built Arkansas into an SEC contender and had the Razorbacks poised for a potential title run prior to his now-infamous scandal.
Petrino took a year off from coaching before Western Kentucky gave him an opportunity to return to the sidelines. Petrino has appeared to be a man humbled by failure—at the professional level as well as in his personal life.
Petrino's teams have been consistently high-scoring and scoring points was a struggle at times for the Cardinals this season. Petrino took Louisville football to heights it had never before seen, and did it without Top 25 talent.
If given the reins to Louisville football, Petrino will have an abundance of talent returning to a team that just finished 12-1.
ESPN's Kirk Herbstreit discussed this situation earlier:
One thing is for certain: Despite all of Petrino's personal transgressions, the man is an incredible coach and one of the brightest offensive minds in the game. Louisville is taking a risk if it does indeed bring Petrino back, but there is no reward without risk.
Louisville has been called a "stepping-stone job" for many years. The irony of the situation is that a coach who used Louisville as a stepping stone could now return to build Louisville into a destination.
Stats and video courtesy of ESPN.com.