CRAWFORD | Louisville's Petrino: 'I'm not interested in going anywhere' amid LSU speculation
With Louisville's success, Bobby Petrino is being mentioned in connection with LSU's open head-coaching job, and probably will be mentioned with others. WDRB's Eric Crawford says, for once, he doesn't think Petrino is going anywhere.
UPDATED at 4:20 p.m. to include quotes from Bobby Petrino
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- LSU has fired head football coach Les Miles, and within minutes, the inbox started pinging with questions about Louisville coach Bobby Petrino.
It’s getting about that time, I guess. Petrino’s Louisville team is ranked No. 3 in the nation, leading the nation in total offense and scoring, has the nation’s No. 1 Heisman Trophy candidate and will be playing on ESPN’s College GameDay Saturday for the second time in three games.
So the time seems ripe for a coaching rumor to come in and take center stage. Google "Petrino and LSU" and you'll see that the talk has already started.
But it shouldn’t. I’m not his spokesman, press agent or anything else. In fact, I have no special insight into Petrino at all. I’m not in the inner circle. I’m not in the inner circle of anyone in the inner circle. Petrino would no more confide in or consult with me about his career goals and aspirations than he would about play calling.
Petrino was, however, asked about the LSU speculation at his regular news conference on Monday. Clearly, he was ready for the question, because his answer was clear.
"I'm not interested in going anywhere," he said. "I'm very fortunate to be the head coach here at the University of Louisville, very happy about that. I'm very glad I've got the support of our athletic director, Tom Jurich, and that we were able to sit down last year and do a new contract. We're going to expand the stadium, we're coming off one of the greatest crowds and Card Marches that I've been around. I feel like we've got everything going in the right direction and this is the job I want. This is where I'm going to be."
In 2007, Petrino would’ve had his agent calling Baton Rouge faster than you can say “Bayou-bye Louisville.” In 2003, Petrino already would’ve met with athletic department officials on a booster’s plane. All of which is to say, I know about Petrino’s past. I was around when it happened.
This is not Petrino’s past. This is his present. And barring unforeseen changes at Louisville, there's little reason to look at most other jobs.
Louisville is not the same job it used to be. The Cardinals are playing in the toughest division in the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision, a division has sent a team to the College Football Playoff Championship game in both years of its existence, and won it once. Three of its members have spent time in the top five of the Associated Press poll this season.
The Cardinals will travel to No. 5 Clemson on Saturday, where they will be a part of ESPN’s GameDay hoopla. That’s two weeks after they beat No. 2 Florida State in Louisville, where they were part of ESPN’s GameDay hoopla.
Next season, they open with Purdue. The year after that, they open with Alabama in Orlando. The year after that, they open with Notre Dame at home. The non-conference schedule is fine.
And so is the money. When you figure in his $500,000 annual Academic Progress Rate bonus, Petrino is making $4.375 million a year, plus incentives. He’s under contract for six years after this one, with a base salary that will go up to $4.875 million by the end of the deal.
Petrino may not be the highest-paid coach in college football, but he can look out his window and see the neighborhood.
Louisville’s stadium will be expanded within the next 18 months. Oh, and his Heisman candidate quarterback, Lamar Jackson, is only a sophomore, and Petrino has a talented QB behind him, as well.
U of L has shown this week that everything Petrino would want to do professionally -- become a championship contender, rise in the rankings, make a large salary, have competitive facilities, get national media attention (GameDay, Sports Illustrated cover), have a Heisman candidate -- all of those things are now possible at Louisville. That wasn’t the reality when Petrino was here before. LSU from Louisville then was a no-brainer.
Now? I’m not sure.
Petrino has headquartered his family foundation here, and his daughter is running it. His family is here. His grandkids are here.
You can coach at Louisville and not face outsized expectations, you know, the kind that get you fired four weeks into a season.
And just as important, Tom Jurich is here. The Louisville athletic director believed in Petrino even in the down times, and gave him an extension and raise before this season, not after. Petrino’s buyout is $10 million. Should Jurich leave for any reason, it reduces to $5 million.
Louisville is not the same place it was.
"It's great to be in the ACC because there's a way to get to a national championship," Petrino said. "There's a way to win your division and play for the championship, so that's always a pretty cool deal. I think our recruiting's going real well and I'm excited about that. I also think that this is getting to be a tough profession where you're firing guys in the middle of the year, early in the year. A friend of mine is a defensive coordinator and just lost his job. That's always scary."
And Petrino is not the same person he was. In a relatively short time, he’s seen about every side of the coaching business you can see. He went to the NFL, lost his star quarterback before he even got a chance to play him, and bolted before the season was over to Arkansas. His personal problems there have been well-documented. So was his ability to turn that program into a winner.
You can’t go through the things Petrino has gone through and not change some. If nothing else, I think Petrino recognizes the quality of life he has in Louisville. And I believe he appreciates the opportunity to be doing what he’s doing right now. I’ll leave the whole “redemption” angle to others. I just know that Petrino remains one of the most gifted play-callers and offensive architects in college football. That much hasn’t changed.
If a half-dozen names are thrown out by the media in connection with the LSU job, the media in a half-dozen cities will play this game where they ask coaches about their interest, then spend hours parsing the response, while coaches resent the distraction thrown their direction, and not altogether unrightfully so.
If anyone would have reason to doubt Petrino’s intentions regarding staying in a certain place, I’d be one of those people.
But I’m not feeling it. I’m not thinking it. I’m not seeing it. Are there better jobs out there than Louisville? Sure. Are there better jobs out there if you’re an offensive-minded guy than coaching Louisville with Lamar Jackson at quarterback and his supporting cast on offense? I’m not sure there are. Not right now.
I’ll always remember when I left my previous job for this job at WDRB, one of my bosses asked me, “What can you do there that you can’t do here?” I wanted to say, “How much time do we have here?”
But for Petrino, there’s not much he can do at LSU that he can’t do at Louisville. Not anymore.
You learn, in this job, never to say never, especially where coaches and jobs are concerned.
Petrino could surprise me. And if he does, U of L will be fine.
But I don’t see it happening. And Petrino doesn't sound like he does either.
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