Louisville hires Bobby Petrino

Updated: January 10, 2014, 5:47 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

Bobby Petrino is "home" again, signing a seven-year contract for a second stint as coach at Louisville.

Petrino led Western Kentucky to an 8-4 record this season, his first at the school. He was 41-9 with the Cardinals from 2003 to 2006 and succeeds Charlie Strong, who left after four seasons to accept the Texas job.

"It's great to get the opportunity to come back here," Petrino said during a news conference Thursday. "This is our home."

Petrino inherits a team coming off a 12-1 finish and gearing up to join the Atlantic Coast Conference next season.

He received a seven-year contract with a base salary of $3.5 million. The deal includes a $10 million buyout for leaving that decreases after four years. But the well-traveled coach said that will not be necessary because this is his "destination job."

Petrino is 83-30 as a college coach. His record includes a 34-17 mark at Arkansas, a tenure that ended amid scandal in April 2012. He took over in Fayetteville after posting a 3-10 record with the Atlanta Falcons in 2007, a stint that ended with Petrino announcing his departure in letters left at players' lockers.

Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich said his school is getting a "changed person." Western Kentucky AD Todd Stewart said in a statement that the Cardinals made a "tremendous hire" and wished Petrino well.

Though Petrino had been mentioned for the Louisville job almost from the moment Strong left for the Longhorns, the coach said he became aware of the opening only after Jurich approached Stewart for permission to interview him.

[+] EnlargeBobby Petrino
AP Photo/Mark HumphreyBobby Petrino got his start as a head coach at Louisville and was 41-9 in four seasons at the school.

On Sunday, Jurich said he and Petrino had previously resolved their differences. But Jurich wanted to see if Petrino had truly changed, as he has professed, since Arkansas fired him for "a pattern of misleading behavior" in the wake of a motorcycle accident in which he revealed his passenger was a mistress.

Jurich said he came away convinced that Petrino is the right fit for the program.

"If it was the same Bobby that was here 10 years [ago], I wasn't interested," said Jurich, adding that he kept coming back to Petrino as he went through a list of seven finalists. "He is definitely a changed person."

Critics have nonetheless remained skeptical about Petrino's level of commitment, citing the fact that he's left three programs in eight years. Public sentiment differed, however, with overwhelming support for Petrino's hiring on sports talk radio, online polls and social media.

Petrino has been contrite since being fired by Arkansas and repeated Thursday he has been humbled by his experiences.

Asked how he would quell skepticism, Petrino said, "The thing you do is just show [it]. I have a sign in the locker room that says it's a 'show-me' world.

"I made mistakes, both professionally and personally," he added. "That's something I'm not going to do again. ... My first mistake was leaving here."

Louisville's hiring of the offense-minded Petrino excited Cardinals players, including leading rusher Dominique Brown, because of the potential of maintaining the high-powered unit Strong left behind.

Brown acknowledged that there was skepticism among teammates about Petrino's past but said those doubts disappeared after the coach met with the players.

"There were a couple on the fence, but now all the players are convinced," Brown said. "We knew what we had while he was here, a top-10 offense. He had a good track record while he was here. I knew he liked to use big backs like Michael Bush. I was kind of worried, but now we are all convinced."

UAB coach Garrick McGee, who served as Petrino's offensive coordinator at Arkansas, will join Petrino's staff to run the offense at Louisville, a source told ESPN's Joe Schad. McGee had a 5-19 record as coach of the Blazers over the past two seasons.

Former Florida State star cornerback Terrell Buckley, who has worked with the Seminoles and Akron coaching staffs, has been hired as cornerbacks coach at Louisville, a source told Schad.

Kevin Steele, who spent last season as Alabama's director of player personnel, will be Louisville's defensive coordinator, a source told ESPN's Brett McMurphy. The former Baylor coach (1999-2002) also had been an assistant with the NFL's Carolina Panthers and the defensive coordinator at Alabama and Clemson.

Joe Schad and Brett McMurphy of ESPN and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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