Commentary

Hiring Bobby Petrino a near-certainty

Originally Published: April 19, 2012
By Gene Wojciechowski | ESPN.com

Bobby Petrino is a compulsive liar. A serial schemer. A wife cheater. I trust him as far as I could throw what's left of the Harley-Davidson he crashed on April Fools' Day.

[+] EnlargeBobby Petrino
Todd Kirkland/Icon SMIBobby Petrino famously left Atlanta after just 13 games and informed his team via a note left in their lockers.

And within the next eight or nine months, maybe sooner, a desperate athletic director or an NFL general manager without a conscience is going to hire Petrino. Wouldn't surprise me if an AD at a midlevel program is already plotting how to get Petrino on the cheap.

Right now, Petrino is radioactive. The mere mention of his name makes you want to scrub down with a dry Brillo pad. You wouldn't hire him to clean your septic tank.

In one of the great trifectas in college football coaching history, he wrecked a motorcycle, a marriage and a morals clause in his University of Arkansas contract. If there were a Hall of Fame for personal and professional scandal, Petrino would be a first-ballot shoo-in.

Petrino not only lost his job and an $18 million buyout, but he also lost his reputation. He humiliated himself, embarrassed his family and gave Arkansas AD Jeff Long no choice but to punt, pass and kick him to the curb.

And guess what? It won't matter. Somebody is going to offer him another coaching gig. A good one, too, either as an NFL assistant or college head coach.

The reason is obvious. Of all the eternal truths in sports, none is more dependable than this one: If you can win games, you can find a job.

"I think there would be people who would give him another opportunity. How soon, I don't know," said former Southern Miss athletic director Richard Giannini, who hired Larry Eustachy after his dismissal at Iowa State for alcohol-related issues.

Like Eustachy, Petrino has proved he can win games. He's a world-class creep, but he can coach football. You've got to give him that much. The man knows his X's and O's.

He transformed offenses as an assistant at Nevada and Auburn. He won big and often at Louisville, where the Cardinals ranked in the top 10 in scoring and total offense two of his four seasons there. He convinced Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank, one of the sharper guys in the NFL, to hire him. He was on the verge of challenging for a national championship at Arkansas.

Petrino seduces you with his coaching skills. You suffer instant memory loss. Suddenly it doesn't matter that Petrino secretly interviewed for the Auburn job, even though Auburn still had a head coach -- Tommy Tuberville, the same guy who had hired Petrino in 2002. Or that he walked out on the Falcons with three games left in the 2007 season -- and didn't have the guts to address the team before his departure.

Louisville fell for it. The Falcons fell for it. Arkansas' Long fell for it. They became blinded by the possibility of those W's and forgot that Petrino couldn't spell loyalty if you spotted him all the consonants.

Petrino has commitment issues. He has believability issues. He has brain cramp issues. After all, what sort of knucklehead uses his university-issued cellphone to set a world record for texts and calls to the 25-year-old aide with whom he was having an affair?

And yet, as the months pass and the football season arrives, and as the number of coaches on the hot seat increases, Petrino's name will bubble to the surface. ADs and GMs will do the rationalization dance. They'll justify their interest in Petrino by saying that everybody deserves a third chance, that he's a changed man.

And maybe Petrino will change. And maybe Donald Trump will grow a mullet.

Nobody who does his due diligence on Petrino could hire him as a head coach, right? He ditched the Falcons during the season and left a Xeroxed four-sentence farewell note in the players' lockers. He kneecapped Arkansas, to say nothing of his own family. His credibility rating is in negative integers.

[+] EnlargeBobby Petrino
Beth Hall/US PresswirePetrino's final news conference should tell prospective employers all they need to know about the coach.

But if you're a mid-major program in search of wins, national attention and revenue, Petrino becomes a possibility. In fact, there might be a major program willing to take a flier on the guy.

Not that he had any real choice, but Petrino was smart not to appeal his termination by Arkansas. It's about the only smart thing he's done in years. That, and win 21 games for the Razorbacks during the past two seasons.

Before he qualifies as a coaching reclamation project, Petrino has to rehabilitate his image. The cleansing has already begun. He didn't fight his firing. He issued the obligatory statement taking "full responsibility" for the events that led to his downfall (as opposed to what, three-eighths responsibility?). He at least sounded contrite.

Petrino is positioning himself for a comeback, much like a certain Arkansas governor did as the Comeback Kid. He wants everyone to click the refresh button on his coaching future.

I contacted Russ Campbell, who is Petrino's agent. The email reply was prompt, professional and not all that surprising.

Wrote Campbell: "Bobby and his family have gone through a lot in a very short period of time. For now, there will be no further comment on either what happened at Arkansas or his future plans. As he said in his last statement, he certainly hopes to return to coaching at some point. For now though, he is going to focus on his family.

"While I am certain that Bobby will be ready to talk at some point, that will be down the road a bit."

That road will lead to only one place.

Another coaching job.

Gene Wojciechowski | email

Columnist / College Football reporter