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Bobby Petrino made his triumphant return to the state of Arkansas on Monday and offered an apology for the wild way things ended back in 2012.
Petrino was riding high after winning 29 games over a three-year span but was infamously fired in shame in April 2012 after he was involved in a motorcycle accident with his mistress, a former Arkansas volleyball player, who he had hired to work in his football program.
Petrino had a 34-17 record in four seasons with the Razorbacks. The program has a combined 37-53 record in the years since, but Petrino received a warm welcome, including a standing ovation, at the Little Rock Touchdown Club. Petrino got choked up when addressing those in attendance.
“I wanted to be able to come here and apologize to everybody — the fans, the players — and truly tell you how sorry I am for the way it ended,” Petrino said. “But I also wanted to come here to thank you for everything people in this room and state did for me and my family. You were great to us.”
According to the Arkansas Democrat Gazette, Monday’s trip to Little Rock was his first visit to the state since he was fired. The controversial end of his tenure was not brought up much during his time on the stage, but he also apologized for not being able to address his team in the aftermath of his dismissal.
“It was hard. The way it happened I’m truly sorry about. The hardest thing was not talking to the players because they are the ones who had truly sacrificed,” Petrino said.
Arkansas has struggled since Petrino’s firing
The football program has not been able to replicate the level of play it had under Petrino since his departure. The Razorbacks played in three straight bowl games under Bret Bielema, but the school moved on from Bielema after a 4-8 season in 2017. From there, Chad Morris took over and went 2-10 in 2018. His team is off to a 1-1 start in 2019 after a loss to Ole Miss over the weekend.
Petrino told those in attendance he believes the program can move back up the SEC standings.
“You are a special group and a special crowd. You don’t realize how much you mean to the players and the energy you bring them,” he said. “No question the Hogs can come back. They need you more now than ever and you are what makes it special here.”
Petrino wants to return to coaching
After his time at Arkansas, Petrino returned to coaching in 2013 at Western Kentucky. He spent just one season at WKU before returning to Louisville, where he had previously coached from 2003-06 until he left for the Atlanta Falcons.
Petrino’s time in the NFL did not go well. With the Falcons’ record at just 3-10, Petrino bailed before the season even ended to take the Arkansas job. He infamously left a four-sentence note at the locker of each of his Falcons’ players to inform them of his resignation.
Petrino’s second stint at Louisville had some high points, including quarterback Lamar Jackson winning the Heisman Trophy. But in standard Petrino fashion, things ended on a sour note. UL fired Petrino last November after the Cardinals suffered their seventh straight loss to drop to 2-8.
Currently without a job, Petrino said Monday he wants to get back into coaching.
“I’ve always felt like football was a way of life for me, not a job, so I do miss it,” he said per the Louisville Courier Journal. “I miss being around the players. I miss trying to help players excel and become the best they can possibly be on the field and off the field.”
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