How Bobby Petrino could return to Arkansas as offensive coordinator 11 years after being fired as head coach

The 2023 college football season has not even finished yet, but the madness within the coaching carousel has already begun.

One of the latest topics within it is the possibility of Bobby Petrino returning to Arkansas as the offensive coordinator more than 11 years after he was fired as the team’s head coach.

Here’s what to know about a potentially puzzling move by the Razorbacks.

MORE: Tracking every FBS coaching change for 2023

How Bobby Petrino could return to Arkansas

ESPN’s Pete Thamel reported Tuesday that Arkansas was “vetting hiring former head coach Bobby Petrino as the school’s next offensive coordinator” and that Petrino had “indicated in the recruiting space that he’s in the mix for an SEC coordinator job.”

“Vetting” is a notable choice of words considering Petrino’s history in Fayetteville. 

After four seasons as head coach in which the Razorbacks’ record improved each year, the school fired Petrino with cause in April 2012 after he hired his mistress to a position within the staff, lying to then-athletic director. That included deception both about the improper relationship and her being present at the motorcycle accident that brought the relationship to light.

“He made the decision, a conscious decision, to mislead the public on Tuesday, and in doing so negatively and adversely affected the reputation of the University of Arkansas and our football program,” Long said at a news conference discussing the coach’s dismissal. “In short, coach Petrino engaged in a pattern of misleading and manipulative behavior designed to deceive me and members of the athletic staff, both before and after the motorcycle accident.”

With Thamel’s report, the question becomes whether Arkansas can legally re-hire Petrino at all. 

The University or Arkansas system has had a policy in place since May 2013 that states that individuals who have “been dismissed for cause…shall not be eligible for re-employment” within the system. Later a revised version was adopted on Nov. 22, 2019.

Best of Arkansas Sports confirmed with the school’s Office of General Counsel that this provision would still apply to Petrino.

There is a possibility for an exception, though UA System President Dr. Donald R. Bobbitt would have to approve it.

Bobby Petrino coaching record

In all of his combined stints as a college head coach, Petrino’s overall record sits at 137-71. He also spent most of the 2007 season as the Falcons’ head coach, going 3-10 before resigning and eventually returning to the college ranks at Arkansas the next season. 

Petrino spent last season as the Texas A&M offensive coordinator with a unit that ranked 53rd in total offense (403.8), 87th in rushing offense (141.4), 41st in passing offense (262.3) and 25th in scoring offense (34.2).

Year Team  Record
2003 Louisville 9-4
2004 Louisville 11-1
2005 Louisville 9-3
2006 Louisville 12-1
2008 Arkansas 5-7
2009 Arkansas 8-5
2010 Arkansas 10-3
2011 Arkansas 11-2
2013 Western Kentucky 8-4
2014 Louisville 9-4
2015 Louisville 8-5
2016 Louisville 9-4
2017 Louisville 8-5
2018 Louisville 2-8
2020 Missouri State 5-5
2021 Missouri State 8-4
2022 Missouri State 5-6

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