Bobby Petrino And Arkansas Football Are Reunited At Last

Just a little over a decade ago, Bobby Petrino found love in a hopeless place: Arkansas college football. And like any college love affair between 2008-11, it was white-hot, exciting, and over just as it was getting started. Petrino coached the Razorbacks to their most successful two-year stretch in decades, winning 10 games in 2010 and 11 in 2011, culminating in a Cotton Bowl win and a top-five ranking going into the next season. But alas, Petrino would not be there with his players on the mountaintop, as tragedy struck that offseason. Petrino crashed and burned (quite literally) following a motorcycle accident that also brought to light an extramarital affair he was having with one of his staffers. The ensuing ugliness led to an uglier firing, thanks to Petrino lying about what actually happened every step of the way, most notably during one of college football’s most infamous press conferences. Petrino had been a bad boy, and he had to go.

But now, bygones are bygones and Petrino is ready to come back and do it again, albeit in a lesser role. After Texas A&M gave Jimbo Fisher a $73 million parachute, Arkansas head coach Sam Pittman pounced on Petrino, making him the team’s new offensive coordinator and giving him the opportunity to come back for one last job and make things right. From an ESPN story on the reunion:

“It’s something I hoped would happen. Wasn’t sure if it ever would, but it is a dream come true to be able to go back to the University of Arkansas and do anything I possibly can to make it right this time,” Petrino said. “I’m grateful to coach [Sam] Pittman and [athletic director] Hunter Yurachek for making it happen.”

The ESPN story details how awful Petrino felt about all the problems he caused back in 2012, and how he “sees this as a chance to help make amends to all the people he let down.” Sure. If there’s one thing we definitely know about Petrino, it’s that he’s all about trying to make right all the things he has done wrong in his previous stops, particularly when he has to come crawling back for a job. One can only imagine the apology tour he’d go on if the Atlanta Falcons ever hired him back. Anyway, he continues on about his hopefulness about this second go-round in Arkansas:

“I’m more excited than anything, just to be able to go back and give back to all the great people of Arkansas, I can’t do anything about the past, but I know how hard Coach Pittman and his coaches have worked. It was great to see when he first got there and the way he changed the culture and then had that good season his second year (9-4 in 2021) and won the bowl game. I’ve always been a Razorback fan and rooted for them and know how hard this last season has been for all of them, so when Coach Pittman had the idea of me coming back, I was immediately interested. Like I said, it was almost a dream.”

ESPN

One of the funnier things about college football is that if you can succeed in a particular niche, or at least maintain a reputation for success, someone will always find you useful. This is why we’ll never truly be rid of Lane Kiffin or Kliff Kingsbury. Petrino is known as a smart offensive mind, and ADs and head coaches love nothing more than the idea of a guy who can get the best out of a capable QB, no matter what baggage they bring with them. And the funniest part of all is if Petrino somehow excels at OC for a year or two, a Power Five team would absolutely take a chance on making him a head coach.

But rest assured, this isn’t just about Petrino and the rebuilding of his image. This is also about the state of Arkansas finally getting the chance to heal, as former Razorbacks QB Tyler Wilson put it:

“There was so much pain after his dismissal, and it wasn’t just our team, but the state in general,” Wilson said. “I felt like we never fully healed after all that and it had almost been like a lingering ghost. Some may still wonder if this is the right fit structurally, and that’s to be determined. But certainly there’s going to be a lot of wouldas, couldas and shouldas that will be vetted out now.”

ESPN

Word. As for Pittman, this is his third OC in three years, so one might be left with the impression that he’s flailing and looking for anything that sticks. He should be careful: If another bad season enters the books, Petrino might be eyeing that top job like Russell Westbrook eyeing Kevin Durant’s MVP trophy. And who’s to say he won’t get it? When it comes to college programs falling for Petrino’s charms, it never takes too long.

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