BOZICH | Petrino and Sports Illustrated -- mixed reviews - WDRB 41 Louisville News

BOZICH | Petrino and Sports Illustrated -- mixed reviews

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Bobby Petrino made the cover of Sports Illustrated this week.

No cover shot – or jinx to deal with. The covers, distributed regionally, are reserved for players from Florida State, Alabama, Oklahoma, Ohio State and UCLA, teams that SI believes can contend for the national title.

SI has a string of individual stories to accompany the usual season preview. One is about a player (USC's George Farmer), another about a program (Florida), one about a town (Tuscaloosa) and a fourth about a coach (Bobby Petrino).

The story, titled "Lather, Rinse, Repeat," is what you'd expect considering the controversies Petrino has generated on his journey from Louisville to Atlanta to Arkansas to Western Kentucky and back to Louisville in the last dozen years. It is written by one of SI's top writers, Tim Layden, with assistance from Thayer Evans.

There is determined support from U of L athletic director Tom Jurich and university president Dr. James Ramsey.

There is praise from former U of L offensive lineman Eric Wood and as well as from NFL quarterback Jake Plummer, who played for Petrino at Arizona State.

And there are the expected darts, nearly all of them fired from anonymous sources.

There is a second-hand anecdote from an unnamed source that Petrino erupted with several expletives during a staff meeting at U of L this summer because "things were getting out," about what was going on inside the program. (The story doesn't say what was getting out.)

There is a story, from Craig James, a defensive back who was at Louisville before transferring to a Northern Iowa, that Petrino recruited a bunch of "tough guys," during his first four-year tenure at Louisville.

Said James, "Coach Petrino and his staff went to the slums. When you go to those bad neighborhoods and you bring kids from the streets to the university, sometimes you bring the streets with them. Guns and fights – I mean we would have riots.""

Steve Kragthorpe struggled with the locker room culture that he inherited when he replaced Petrino before the 2007 season. Jurich told Layden that he should have given Petrino more oversight – and that he will this time.

But riots? That is a stretch.

There is a story that while coaching at Arkansas Petrino tangled with defensive line coach Bobby Allen and threw Allen to the ground. Petrino denied the story. Allen declined to comment.

But there is also plenty of praise for Petrino. Wood, an NFL starter who invests considerable time at the football complex during the off-season, believes that Petrino has changed from his first tenure at U of L.

"You see him coming off the practice field, grabbing his grandkids with a big smile across his face," Wood said.

One of Petrino's former college teammates, Tim Burton, now chief of staff to the governor of Montana, praised Petrino, especially for his ability to deliver at crunch time. "We just knew Bobby would make a play for us," Burton said.

Plummer says that he thought Petrino was "cocky," when the coach initially joined Bruce Snyder's staff at Arizona State.

Now? "Petrino wanted to spread it out and throw it around," said Plummer, who went on to play in the NFL and now works as a studio analyst on the Pac-12 network. "I was kind of mellow and he pushed me to be a leader. I learned to love the guy.""

So the story goes – back and forth. A replay of Petrino's faults as well as an outline of his successes, especially on the field.

That's the way it will continue to play out all season – roaring appreciation at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium (Jurich says all 63 luxury suites have been sold and that there is a waiting list for season tickets) as well as the inevitable heckling that will be aimed at the Cardinals' sidelines on the road.

Petrino received the opportunity to revise the story when Jurich hired him to replace Charlie Strong last January. His performance over the last seven-plus months has been encouraging. He's been more open and available to the media and engaged in the community.

It's Petrino's chance to get back on the cover of Sports Illustrated – picture included this time – with a different narrative.

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