By Annie Moore—
Former University of Louisville Head Coach Bobby Petrino is taking back the reins of the football program. Petrino was offered the position Wednesday, and his appointment was announced at a press conference and fan reception on Thursday.
“It’s great to be home,” was Petrino’s constant refrain during the conference. His prodigal return to Louisville after his fall from grace just eight years ago has been met with varied responses since his name was added to athletic director Tom Jurich’s short list of candidates. Jurich has vehemently confirmed that he is committed to making the best choice for Louisville.
“I will not let this place down, this place means everything to me” Jurich said. “Bobby and I have a lot of history together. Some of it’s great, some of it is not great, and I knew that. The coach he was eight years ago is not the coach I want to hire. 180 degrees he’s changed, I told him I only wanted 170 degrees, that other ten percent was the old guy we want back.”
Petrino was head coach at Louisville from 2003 to 2006, before leaving for a brief stint in the National Football League with the Atlanta Falcons. After leaving the Falcons after just 13 games, Petrino was head coach of the Arkansas Razorbacks, where he infamously was fired for inappropriate conduct. Petrino just finished up his first season as the head coach at Western Kentucky University.
Petrino was 41-9 in his first three years with the Cardinals, including the program’s first BCS bowl win, and he went 4-0 against the University of Kentucky in his time at Louisville. While this gained him favor with fans, the manner in which he left not only ruffled the feathers of CardNation, but many inside the department, Jurich included.
Headed into its first season in the Atlantic Coast Conference and coming off the sting of Charlie Strong’s departure, many fans are reluctant to trust a man who has already scorned the program once. Petrino addressed these concerns Thursday morning.
“I want everybody here to know, this is my destination job, I can’t wait to get started,” Petrino said. “It’s a privilege to see how everything has moved along, we’re now going into the ACC. It’s a great challenge to see the schedule coming up and I can’t wait to play that schedule.”
University of Louisville President James Ramsey weighed in on the decision to hire the estranged coach.
“Every chance we get to talk about the University of Louisville, we talk about the amazing trajectory we’re on,” Ramsey said. “It’s a trajectory that is amazing in terms of academics and athletics, our mandate and goal is to continue on that trajectory. To do that, we have to have the right people. We’ve got the very best person to lead the Cardinal football team forward into the ACC. This is Tom’s decision, but it is supported by the university.”
While the University of Louisville Athletic Association unanimously confirmed Petrino Thursday morning, the jury is still out on whether the new and improved Petrino will live up to the hype. One thing made perfectly clear, is that he is ready to start this new chapter at Louisville.
“I’m more energized, I’m more excited than I’ve ever been, to be back,” Petrino said. “Having the opportunity to be in the stadium brings back some of the best memories. I’ve made mistakes both professionally and personally, it’s just something that I’m not going to do again.This is our home, I’m just really excited to be a Card.”