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By Jacob Cooper
The prevailing sentiment around the country is that Razorback fans are willing to do anything to get Bobby Petrino back. With each game that interim head coach John L. Smith lets slip away, the chorus grows louder.
Although numerous sports writers and columnists have outlined why it’s impossible for Hogs’ Athletic Director Jeff Long to bring Petrino back, I think most fans may be missing a more important point: Bobby Petrino wanted to get fired from the University of Arkansas.
Am I reporting this as fact? Of course not. Do I have a source? Absolutely not. I’m just another armchair quarterback like you. But can I build a plausible case based on reason and logic? Get your piss hot.
Let’s look at Petrino’s 2010 contract extension basics: a seven-year deal worth $25 million dollars. He had a buyout that ranged from $10 million to $18 million depending on the year. He also had a non-compete clause for the entire SEC—his first contract only included a non-compete clause for the SEC West. Big numbers equals big-time loyalty, right?
Petrino’s rapid rise through the ranks of college football is well known, but it’s important to take a second look. Skipping over his first few jobs as a graduate assistant and small-school position coach, Petrino coached at Idaho for three years; Arizona State, two years; Nevada, one year; Utah State, two years; Louisville, one year; the Jacksonville Jaguars, three years; Auburn, one year; Louisville (head coach), three years; the Atlanta Falcons (head coach), less than a year; and the Arkansas Razorbacks (head coach), four years. That’s 11 schools and 14 new titles in 25 years. Do the math: that’s roughly a new school or title every couple of years.
Now read over those contract specifics again from Petrino’s 2010 contract extension with Arkansas. One thing is clear: Bobby Petrino was locked into Arkansas for the long haul. AD Jeff Long had made the terms airtight. For Arkansas fans, who had to endure the pundits’ constant cry that Petrino wouldn’t last more than a couple of years as the Razorbacks’ head coach, his new contract was closure. Arkansas had tamed the beast.
There was still a way out for a man who has perfected the college football Ponzi scheme. A simple morals clause. If you think a man who left his only head coaching gig in the NFL by taping a laminated, four-sentence, type-written note to his players’ lockers is above manufacturing a moral dilemma, think again. This is a man with running in his blood.
Here’s the tricky part. What’s the motive? Why would a man who seemingly had it all (money, prestige, adoration) want to blow that up? Simple: because even the best cons can’t last forever—even ones that would make James “Sawyer” Ford proud.
During his four years as head coach of Louisville, Petrino won 9, 11, 9, and 12 games. What happened in 2007, the year after Petrino had won the Orange Bowl? The Cardinals were returning a ton of firepower, including pre-season All-American quarterback Brian Bohm and a future NFL receiver in senior Harry Douglas. Naturally Louisville finished 6-6, 5-7, and 4-8 in the next three seasons under new head coach Steve Kragthorpe.
Sound familiar, Hog fans? A year after winning the 11 games and defeating Kansas State in the Cotton Bowl to finish in the top five of the BCS, Arkansas had all the pieces in place to make a serious run at the SEC West. Tyler Wilson, Cobi Hamilton, Knile Davis… You don’t think Bobby Petrino knew what was coming this season? How could he not? He had spent four years underachieving as a recruiter, building an offense dependent on his scheme with marginal players and completely ignoring defense. I think he knew it was time to get out of Arkansas before his failures as a recruiter were exposed.
Many Arkansas fans still won’t believe this, but it’s more plausible than Petrino’s “gust of wind” pushing his motorcycle into the ditch, his female passenger completely unharmed while he wears a neck brace.
It’s always been about Bobby.
Fans will say he lost too much; he gave up a dream season, a dream job. Don’t kid yourself. Petrino was smart enough not to be made delusional by Arkansas’s recent success. He just needed a way out of a contract that had come the closest to chaining him to once place in his career. Jessica Dorrell was the perfect cover. You think Bobby Petrino cares about a little bad publicity? Not when Auburn, Tennessee, and Kentucky come calling after the year.
Petrino is one of the world’s greatest modern con men. He’ll turn an extramarital affair into a fat contract, less binding than the previous, at a better football college. Get ready, Arkansas fans: Petrino is about to take the SEC by storm for the second time. At least for three or four years. And it was all by design.