Louisville's decision to hire Bobby Petrino -- again -- has stirred national discussion.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – There are 41 ways I could start this column about the University of Louisville's decision to give Bobby Petrino a second chance at a job he didn't want seven years ago. But this is the one that fits:
I would not have done it.
I understand why U of L, president Dr. James Ramsey and athletic director Tom Jurich are doing it.
I'm not outraged. I'm not even surprised. Not one bit. From Bill Clinton to Charlie Sheen to Tiger Woods to Wall Street, that is just how we roll in America these days. I'm just opposed. But I understand. I'm sure you also understand.
I'm not certain if it was John Madden, Reggie Miller or Jurich who said it best:
Winning is the best deodorant.
"My perspective as an alumnus and somebody emotionally involved in the program, is that sports is forgiving," said Roman Oben, a former U of L football player who spent a dozen years in the NFL.
"We can't be hypocrites about other aspects of society. Companies are failing and CEOs are taking big payouts. You hope that you're getting a different Bobby Petrino, a guy with a little more humility, a guy who wants the job."
We'll see. The challenge is squarely on Petrino to prove that, not for the rest of us to believe it. I'll need more evidence.
You've memorized The Bad Bobby List. That is why I would have passed on Petrino. Disloyalty. Untruthfulness. Abrasiveness. When Steve Kragthorpe was floundering through his three seasons as Petrino's successor, some officials at U of L did not blame Kragthorpe. They blamed Petrino.
Locker room issues. Bad apples. Cleansing the program. That is how it was described as fan opposition to Kragthorpe escalated. Bring Back Bobby. You remember that.
There's more. But that is the starter set of reasons why I would have searched at least a few more minutes for another coach, somebody who would have been a greater risk on the scoreboard, but less of a risk to make U of L look silly.
Critics will be tossing all those items – and more – at Louisville as long as Petrino is on the job. They should. This one will require an industrial strength amount of nose-holding.
Even a few Louisville fans will exit the stadium. Alums like Washington political insider Howard Fineman of the Huffington Post were howling about this decision on Twitter Wednesday:
"Can't believe #Louisville is hiring #petrino. Take all the reputational progress and toss it away. #naive."
Consider that part of the first blast of toxic publicity. There will be a smaller blast when spring practice begins. And a smaller dose at the start of the 2014 season. And a smaller dose in 2015. And a smaller dose …
And then? Then they'll be back. They always come back – when a coach wins.
Petrino wins. He won – big – at Louisville as the offensive coordinator and head coach. He won fairly big at Arkansas when he was trying to survive in the same end of the Southeastern Conference shark tank with Alabama and Louisiana State.
Petrino won two games for every game that he lost during the opening act of his comeback tour at Western Kentucky in 2013, delivering victories over Kentucky and Navy. The eight WKU victories were a record for the Hilltoppers as an FBS program.
Louisville is winning big again today – 23 games over the last two seasons. The stadium is larger now than it was when Petrino left for the Atlanta Falcons after winning a dozen games and the Orange Bowl during the 2006 season. Charlie Strong left behind a roster with considerable talent. Adrenaline about the impending move into the Atlantic Coast Conference has been percolating for more than a year.
Add Bobby Petrino to that formula and I can already envision the pre-season magazines keeping Louisville in the Top 25.
"I think Petrino does deserve another chance," Oben said. "Personal stuff is the stuff that everybody kind of cringes about. Hopefully that stuff doesn't come back. Hopefully he doesn't forget about this day and the opportunity Louisville has given him in three or four years, when and if he does win an ACC title and gets in that four-team (national) playoff."
It's not a risk I would have taken. But I understand why Louisville will. That's just how we roll in America today.