Well folks, one of the most fascinating parts of the college football calendar is nearly upon us: The college football coaching carousel.
And while the usual names like Kirby Smart and Charlie Strong are once again being bandied around for openings that are sure to pop up across the country, there is one man whose name has drawn more criticism, intrigue and conversation than any other: That of Mr. Robert Petrino Jr.
Aka Bobby Petrino.
Aka the man who nearly saw his career end in the ditch of an Arkansas highway back in April. Now, just eight months later, he's become a sign of hope for programs all across college football desperate to win games.
So with that, our Meeting of the Minds question this week is simple: If you were the athletic director in charge of hiring a football coach, would you hire Bobby Petrino? There isn't a single candidate on the market with more baggage, but there also isn't one more likely to produce wins, and produce them in a hurry.
So, Mr. AD, what do you do?
What DO YOU DO?
Allen Kenney: I'd put Boss Hog in the upper upper echelon of college football coaches. He's a true offensive genius. In terms of the on-field product, he'd immediately upgrade just about any team.
And there's zero chance I'd hire him to lead my program.
Petrino's issues with the truth seem downright pathological at this point, especially when he continued to outright lie to his superiors at the University of Arkansas despite knowing that it was an only a matter of time until his subterfuge came to light. If you can't trust your highest-profile employees to come clean on something as important as his joyride, it's just not worth the headache.
Andy Coppens: I 100% agree with what he had to say, but I will add in the fact that it would be damn difficult to hire Petrino for another reason he didn't explore.
That would be the fact that as an AD I'm entrusted with making sure I'm giving my student-athletes the best environment and that means giving them coaches that can be trusted and have their best interests at heart and clearly that's never the case with Petrino.
Now I know coaches come and go and some players will be lied to, but Petrino has taken it to a whole different level by the way he's left programs in the past – excluding the Arkansas situation. Now add in the fact that he continuously lied to his superiors and put in danger a former athlete in his stint at Arkansas and I don't know if I could look the parents of my student-athelets in the eyes and tell them they are in good hands with a man like that at the helm of the program.
Aaron: First off, I agree with and completely understand with everything you guys have said.
And I couldn't disagree more vehemently. If I had a coaching opening in my football program, Petrino would be my first phone call.
Look, at this point you know what you're getting with the dude; to be blunt, you don't need me to get into the particulars with you here. At the same time, Jeff Long did a relatively good job of keeping him in check, keeping him off the radar and keeping him out of trouble. Remember, Petrino didn't fired for NCAA problems that make him unhireable now, but instead personal problems that are much easier to explain away. Plus, after Petrino nearly lost so much, I have to assume that personal problems (at least those particular ones) won't be much of an issue going forward.
Also, Andy, you listed that the "AD is entrusted with making sure that the student-athletes are in the best environment," except let's also not forget that part the AD's job is also to ensure the overall health of the entire athletic department. Well part of having a healthy athletic department is having a strong football program; ya'll don't need me to tell you that for the swimming, tennis and softball teams to thrive, they usually do it off the backs of football. I'm not saying you "owe it" to them to hire Petrino. But if your department is struggling, if it will help ALL 300 student-athletes in your athletic department beyond just the 85 on the football team, don't you owe it to them to at least make a call?
Either way, I'm aboard team Petrino.
I wonder how many in Arkansas would welcome him back with open arms this second. I also wonder if that includes Jeff Long as well.
Allen Kenney: How did Jeff Long "keep Petrino in check?" Sure, Arkansas didn't have any NCAA issues, but Petrino was rolling around Fayetteville – not a metropolis – popping wheelies with his side piece on his hog. On top of that, Long expedited the hiring of Petrino's mistress to a position where there were other qualified candidates. Petrino's sex life is his business, but that opens up major liability issues for the school.
The bigger problem for any AD contemplating hiring Petrino is the idea that you'd need to worry about going above and beyond in the first place to keep tabs on him. Long learned the hard way what that's like.
Aaron Torres: How did Long keep Petrino in check? Well, were there any NCAA violations during Petrino's time at the school? No. Did Petrino actively seek out or even interview for any other jobs? Not that we know of (which is more than you can say about 99.9 percent of people in the business). Did he sneak out under the cloak of darkness like he did in Atlanta? No. What Petrino did do was commit an extra-marital affair, like a whole crap ton of men and women do all the time, all over the country. He just happened to be a high-profile public figure. And he just happened to get caught.
And frankly, I think Long handled Petrino exactly whoever hires him next should: Long was stern, he was to the point, he structured the contract which basically made it impossible for Petrino to sneak out the back door, and up until April when he rode off into a ditch, Petrino stayed out of trouble. He also won a lot of football games.
But really, I think Mike's point is the most important: It really does depend on the school, and the strength of power from which the AD who might potentially be hiring Petrino operates from. For example, Dave Hart at Tennessee has plenty of wiggle room and is still trying to work through the mess Mike Hamilton left behind him? Should he take a chance on Bobby Petrino? Hell no.
But…if you're Jay Jacobs at Auburn, and your hot seat is nearly as scorching as your head coach's, do you then? I say so.
Allen Kenney: Aaron, you completely ducked the bigger issue: Petrino put Arkansas at major risk by getting his girlfriend that job, then he lied about it, even though it was inevitable he would get caught. There is no way for an AD to police that kind of behavior unless you're going to hire some kind of mentor or security team to tail him all the time.
You guys are talking about ADs who are worried about keeping their jobs. Think about this: What happens if you're the guy Petrino burns next? Forget your career, let alone your job. Are there really not enough good coaching candidates out there to warrant that kind of risk?
Allen Kenney: There are a ton of good candidates out there in play for schools like Auburn: Wille Taggart, maybe James Franklin, Kirby Smart, maybe Art Briles, maybe Charlie Strong.
Michael Felder: That you can get? That are sure things? Not really, no.
Allen Kenney: We're far afield at this point, but if you can land a guy like Taggart, I don't think you're working from a position of desperation. Given Petrino's history, I don't see how you can say that situation is more likely to end well than hiring a successful mid-major coach.
Michael Felder: No clue it Taggart or Briles can work in SEC. Smart's got 0 HC experience. Which leaves Franklin and Strong and I agree they'd be sound hires, but, what if they say no? That leads to the desperation that I referenced, no?
Aaron Torres: Allen, where I will argue is that Long gave too much discretion to Petrino in hiring his own staff without doing his own due diligence in the hiring process.
But as someone who worked in college athletics once upon a time, I don't think Long is really all that much to blame. As I said at the time and stand by now, the vast majority of athletic departments prefer to fill positions internally with people they're familiar with and are familiar with the program, especially jobs as menial as "on-campus recruiting coordinator." Jeff Long has a lot of responsibilities over the course of his day and if poring over the resumes of 23-year-old wannabe coaches isn't one of them. If anything, you can blame Long for not keeping a closer eye on Petrino, but I can't blame him for the oversight on this one. He trusted his head coach to hire the best possible candidate and got burned. 999 times out of 1,000 he doesn't.
Now, back to the bigger picture and to what Michael just said below: There are a lot of good candidates on the market, but there is only one that is a near guarantee to have your team competing for conference titles within three years and that's Petrino.
Like so many other things, it's all about your end-game here. If your school is about winning National Championships or going bust, you probably have to at least consider hiring Petrino. If your school is about winning enough games to be interesting, competing for the occasional conference title and hoping to go to a bowl game, well, you probably look in a different direction.