BOZICH | A New Bobby Petrino? More Assembly Required
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – You don't believe him. You don't believe Bobby Petrino when he says the Comeback Edition of his University of Louisville coaching career will be the final stop on his wandering eye resume.
Petrino understands that. He'll live with it. He doesn't have a choice. All he can offer now are words, words that many will not believe. The actions will take time. The proving will take time. A lot of time.
"I think people are going to wonder that and think that," Petrino said in private interview Thursday afternoon.
"Until (another job offer) happens, until one of those jobs opens and somebody asks me about it and I come right out and say that I have no interest, there will always be that thought in their minds because of the past."
Petrino will have no interest if Florida or Notre Dame or Oregon or another job with fancier facilities, more money and a better recruiting base calls, unlike the way Petrino had interest in every job with fancier facilities, more money and a better recruiting base then he was here from 2003-through-the-2006 seasons?
"I have no interest," Petrino said.
Your interest is building a legacy here, repairing your reputation as a serial job hopper who drove his career into tabloid hell at Arkansas less than two years ago?
"That's what I want to do," Petrino said. "I'm just going to try to work on enjoying coaching, enjoying the relationships with the players, seeing them excel and get the fans out there. Put a good product on the field so the fans enjoy watching it."
Some people are convinced. Those were several hundred Louisville fans chanting, "BOBBY! BOBBY! BOBBY!" at rally after Petrino was officially announced as the Louisville coach Thursday.
"My Dad has changed a lot," said Petrino's oldest son, Nick. "If you would just see him with his two grandchildren you wouldn't believe it's the same person. I wouldn't say that he's softer. Just more understanding of certain circumstances and how things work out.
"I know that he would love to be here for the rest of his career. My family loves Louisville. There is nowhere else to go."
Some will never be convinced. Those are the skeptics charbroiling U of L, athletic director Tom Jurich and Petrino on social media, talk radio and other media outlets. The pictures of Petrino wearing a neck brace with pavement burns on his face from the motorcycle accident in Arkansas are everywhere again. Petrino will carry that bullseye on the back of his polo shirt in every stadium Louisville visits.
Louisville officials were convinced -- as long as Petrino was willing to sign a seven-year contract, worth a reported $3.5 million per season that includes a $10 million buyout clause as well as a morals clause.
Jurich needed less than five full days to fetch Petrino from Western Kentucky. It was last Saturday night when Jurich and Charlie Strong sat for a man-to-man conversation at Strong's house, the conversation that Strong was determined to have before his move to Texas would be official.
This time it was Jurich who was insistent upon having the man-to-man conversation with Petrino, who was obviously the favorite of the athletic director to return as the coach, despite his considerable baggage.
Jurich made his first call to WKU athletic director Todd Stewart Sunday afternoon, not long after Jurich finished his press conference to discuss the opening. Stewart called Petrino to advise him of Louisville's interest.
"I really didn't think about it (when the rumors began that Strong might leave)," Petrino said. "But when it came across (last Saturday) night that (Strong) had been offered the job, you start wondering, ‘Hey, I wonder if there will be an opportunity for me to be able to interview and get a chance.' "
Louisville businessman Paul Perconti is one of Petrino's best friends. The two men have remained close since Petrino left for Atlanta in 2007 and then later jumped to Arkansas without finishing one season. Perconti convinced Petrino to push for an in-person interview, not the standard back-and-forth on the telephone.
Jurich made his first call to Petrino Sunday night. They talked for several minutes, essentially agreeing to talk again Monday. That second conversation lasted several hours.
"The second one went great," Petrino said. "It was an interview. It was an interview with him asking questions and wanting answers. I don't want to get into details and all that about everything that was said. He certainly interviewed me."
Petrino made the two-hour drive from Bowling Green to Jurich's house in the Lake Forest subdivision, arriving at noon and departing at 8:10. Lunch and dinner were delivered. U of L president Dr. James Ramsey also had questions.
Ramsey better hope his questions were the right questions. If Petrino blows this opportunity, the coach is not the only person who will look like a fool. Jurich and Ramsey will be in the team picture, too.
"I think it was sitting down and looking at (Jurich) eye to eye and having our conversations eye to eye," Petrino said.
Has Petrino changed?
Of course, Petrino is going to say that he is changed. He said he is more focused on his family. His wife, Becky, is eager to return to Louisville. His youngest daughter, Katie, has one season of eligibility remaining with the U of L golf team. Their son, Bobby Jr., is studying for a business degree from U of L. He already has a degree in culinary arts. His goal is to open a restaurant.
Oldest daughter, Kelsey, and her husband L. D. Scott have two children that figure to also land in Louisville with Scott joining the Cards' coaching staff as a defensive ends' coach. Nick Petrino said that he has one semester to finish at WKU but would like to serve on the U of L staff as a graduate assistant.
"There's been a lot of ups and downs," Nick Petrino said. "I've been with him. I was with him down in Arkansas and then Western. There were hard times. There were a lot of really hard times. But we got past it.
"We've lived so many places but ever since we left Louisville, we've come back here as much as we can. I know everyone in my family is just really excited to be here."
Getting Bobby Petrino back to Louisville is surprising. Getting him to stay, succeed and not embarrass the school is the happy ending Petrino needs to chase. The legacies of James Ramsey, Tom Jurich and Bobby Petrino are depending upon it.
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