Well, that was a pretty quick penance period. Eight months after being fired by Arkansas following revelations of affair-having, mistress-job-getting, and a coverup involving the both of them and a motorcycle accident, Bobby Petrino is back in college football: he’ll be introduced as the new head coach at Western Kentucky later today. Petrino replaces Willie Taggart, who left to take the head coaching job at South Florida.
It was always clear Petrino would get back into coaching – he’s 51 (52 by the time next season kicks off), so he’s got plenty of years left in him. And more importantly, he wins (in college) – he went a combined 75-26 at Arkansas and Louisville. He’s been way too successful for someone not to give him a shot. But boy, did that next shot come quickly (yeah, yeah). Ater the firing, I initially figured Petrino would be radioactive for at least another year after this, and wondered if he’d have to come back as an assistant (or perhaps head coach at an FCS school) when he did make his return.
But no, he got an FBS job – and while it’s not in a BCS conference (that, at least, was too much to ask so soon), it’s a pretty damn good gig. Petrino takes over a program that’s already in solid shape thanks to Taggart’s rebuilding work – Western Kentucky’s finished with a winning record each of the last two seasons. Even if the program hadn’t been in good shape, Petrino’s record suggests he would have won there eventually, but the Hilltoppers give him an excellent chance to win right away – and that winning, combined with a couple more years (maybe even only one more year) of image rehab, will allow him to land a plum BCS conference job again.
That image rehab, though, better be flawless. He started it with a tearful SportsCenter interview in August, so he’s already a bit of the way there, and it’ll probably continue in his introductory press conference at WKU later this afternoon (which we’re looking forward to monitoring, because that thing could get awkward if he faces questions dealing with the end of his Arkansas tenure).
But it’ll begin in earnest once Petrino’s on the job. Just as he was beginning to shed his reputation as a mercenary, he (deservedly) acquired an even more damaging “sleazy horndog” label. And that one will never totally fade, but for it to become a distant enough memory that he once again gets consideration for jobs on the level of Arkansas, he better not do one remotely questionable thing off the field.
That’s what it’s come to for Petrino – his football mind was never in question. His loyalty to his employer isn’t even really something people care that much about anymore; after all, it wasn’t what got him canned at Arkansas. No, what he needs to prove now is that he can keep his penis from going anywhere it’s not supposed to go. He’s going to win games at WKU for as long as he’s there (a couple years at most if all goes well, which WKU has to know and figured was worth it to have a guy around who’d be a guaranteed big short-term winner), and if he leaves for another job this time around, no one will blame him.
But until then, college football fans and administrators everywhere will (figuratively… please, please only figuratively) have a watchful eye on Bobby Petrino’s penis, making sure it doesn’t get caught up in anything shady. Petrino’s at a different place in his carer than most guys who’d take the head coaching job at WKU: most coaches would be at a place like Western Kentucky to prove they can match wits with the big boys, run a program the way you’d need to to compete with college football’s elite.
Petrino’s done all that. He’s at WKU to prove that, once he builds a program capable of competing with anyone, he can wield enough control over his own dick not to cause it all to crumble in a web of lies he leaves to John L. Smith to unsuccessfully clean up. If he successfully does that, soon enough he’ll be back somewhere where his teams are competing for BCS bowls on a yearly basis, because that’s what he does – put a winning football team on the field. All will be right with his world again. He will have achieved penis redemption. But until that day: Bobby, you’re on dong notice.
Getty photo, by Chris Graythen
Note: this didn’t really fit anywhere in the post, but I came across an article written by a young woman working in college football, Christianne Harder, lamenting how Petrino’s mistress, Jessica Dorrell, made it infinitely tougher for any woman who wants to legitimately advance in the profession to do so. The school where she was working at the time of writing the piece: Western Kentucky. If God exists, [S]He’s a funny dude[tte].