In one of the most surprising twists of the college football off-season, multiple reports indicate that disgraced former Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino will be named the head coach at Western Kentucky on Monday afternoon.
A 4 p.m. press conference has been announced by the school, where Petrino will apparently replace Willie Taggart, who accepted the South Florida head coaching job over the weekend.
For Petrino, it marks his return to college football coaching just eight months after he was fired at Arkansas amidst a slew of controversy. At the time Petrino was involved in a very serious motorcycle accident, and it was later revealed that his mistress was on the bike with him. As it turned out, that mistress was also an employee of the Arkansas football program a fact that sealed Petrino’s fate at the school.
But regardless of his off the field shenanigans, there is no doubt that Petrino can coach. In eight seasons as a head coach Petrino has gone 75-26, including a stunning revival at Arkansas, where he went 21-5 over his final two seasons at the school. Arkansas finished the 2011 season ranked No. 5 in the country after a Cotton Bowl victory over Kansas State, and was widely considered to be a Top 5 team entering 2012. However the Cotton Bowl proved to be the last game Petrino ever coached at Arkansas, and the Hogs fizzled without him, going 4-8 this season.
With his return to college football coaching, what will be most interesting to see for Petrino isn’t whether he has success (which seems almost certain at this point), but more importantly, how quickly he’s able to parlay whatever success he does have into another job.
It’s no secret that Petrino had the desire to get back into coaching this off-season, and it was presumed that he’d end up at a bigger and more prestigious school than Western Kentucky. Early reports indicated Auburn might be interested, but they ended up with Gus Malzahn, and reports of Petrino’s interest in the Kentucky, Colorado and Tennessee jobs didn’t seem to coincide with any reciprocal interest from those particular schools. There was even talk over the weekend that Petrino might be interested in replacing Malzahn at Arkansas State, but apparently those talks cooled over the weekend as well.
Regardless, Petrino now has a landing spot, and it’ll be interesting to see how quickly he can put his Midas touch on a program that went 7-5 this season and returns a bunch of talent in 2013. Included could be Antonio Andrews, college football’s eighth leading rusher in 2012 with 1,609 yards.
Western Kentucky will next play on Wednesday December 26, when they matchup with Central Michigan in the Little Caesars Bowl.
Ironically, the Hilltoppers open the 2013 season against the University of Kentucky, a team that Petrino went 4-0 against when he was head coach at Louisville.
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