After a season away from college football following being fired from Arkansas, Bobby Petrino found his way back to head coaching circles after getting hired at Western Kentucky this offseason.
But Petrino, who spoke to WGFX in Nashville, said road back to being a head coach was wrought with regret over what happened at Arkansas after his departure.
“It was very, very difficult. It’s always been a way of life for me, not necessarily a job. I grew up the son of a coach and it was just something you did every year, every fall. It was difficult, and then to watch them struggle and not play the way they played before, I felt a lot of responsibility for that.”
Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long fired Petrino following a motorcycle accident that put him into the hospital. It wasn’t the accident that resulted in the dismissal, but rather Petrino’s passenger, a subordinate named Jessica Dorrell, with whom he was having an affair.
Petrino lied to media and Long about Dorrell being involved in the accident and that’s ultimately what got him dismissed.
Long hired John L. Smith, a former assistant coach with the Razorbacks, to help keep the train on the rails, but once Petrino left, a team that many predicted to challenge for a national title, barely finished the season with a 4-8 record.
Coaches said Smith’s 10-month contract gave the lame-duck coaching staff no authority. Subsequently, after things started to go bad for the Razorbacks, many players, especially seniors, decided to quit and start looking ahead toward the future.
While Smith and Long took the brunt of the criticism for the 2012 season, it was really Petrino’s actions long before the season started that led to the Razorbacks’ failure.
Petrino inherits a Western Kentucky team that was left in better shape than when former coach Willie Taggert found it. Even Petrino, who said he’s moved on from Arkansas, couldn’t help but take a small jab when comparing his former employer to his current one.
“I tell you what, it’s unbelievable the facilities we have at WKU. The weight room, training room and locker room are way off the charts, way better than what we had at Arkansas. They did a great job of designing the new facility. … I really couldn’t understand it until I got there and saw it for myself.”
Petrino’s stint at Western Kentucky probably won’t be long. It’s a job to get him back in the game and eventually back among the elite conferences. But how long does it take for people to forget about the lying and scheming and just care about winning?