Eight years after leaving Louisville for an NFL job that didn’t last very long, Bobby Petrino is back as the head coach of the Cardinals, leaving Western Kentucky after only one season with the Sun Belt program.
The contract and buyout terms have yet to be finalized, but athletic director Tom Jurich has already told the media that Petrino will be returning to Louisville, a school he led to a 41-9 record during his four seasons with the team, including two top 10 finishes and winning the Orange Bowl in the 2006 season.
It’s hard to argue about Petrino’s record as a head coach, at least in College Football. After leaving the Atlanta Falcons (bolted ship was more like it), he coached Arkansas in the very tough SEC West for four seasons. He led them to two 10+ winning seasons in 2010 and 2011, taking them to the Sugar Bowl in one year and winning the Cotton Bowl the next season with the Razorbacks finishing #5 in the nation.
Petrino and his affair with a former volleyball player at the school was discovered in early 2012, and he was fired from the university on April of that year. He became the head coach of the Hilltoppers just over a year ago, and led them to their best season since moving into the Sun Belt conference, finishing with an 8-4 record, although they didn’t get invited to a bowl game.
Petrino has a slightly complicated buyout clause with Western Kentucky, knowing that they weren’t going to be hanging on to him for very long: The deal has a base salary of $850,000 and includes clauses in which the oft-traveled coach must repay the school $1.2 million in six installments beginning a month after any early exit, while the program that hires him must agree to schedule a two-year, home-and-home series with WKU.
Louisville are coming off two great seasons with Charlie Strong (left to Texas) and Teddy Bridgewater (left to the NFL), but are now facing a tougher schedule by joining the ACC. Few doubt that Petrino has the coaching chops to help the Cardinals with the transition, but his morals and loyalty are something else.