Bobby Petrino is the best available college coach in America and there isn't a close second.
In the wake of yesterday's disastrous pursuit of Mike Gundy and Charlie Strong, it's time for Tennessee to bite the moral bullet and hire Petrino.
As Tennessee throws four million dollars at Charlie Strong -- four million! -- Bobby Petrino remains on the sideline, a career 75-26 coaching record at two vastly inferior jobs, Louisville and Arkansas, standing as a bright glittering resume.
He's won 75% of his games and we've never even seen what Petrino can do with a really good job. And make no mistake, despite the ham-handed search directed by Dave Hart thus far, Tennessee is a really good job.
In fact, I'd guarantee you this, Petrino would have the Vols in the BCS within three years.
Can you say that about any other candidate?
Hell, Arkansas fans would trade Bret Bielema in a heartbeat for Bobby Petrino. A ton of Louisville fans would trade Charlie Strong for Bobby Petrino too. That's because both of these fan bases have seen what Petrino can do.
And right now Tennessee can get Petrino with absolutely zero risk.
You could sign him to a million dollar contract. That's a million less than you were already paying Derek Dooley. Hell, my buddy Shannon Terry at 24/7 Sports even suggested that Tennessee should hire him to a Nascar style contract and only pay him per win. You could hire him without a guarantee at all!
Certainly you could sign him to a contract that would forbid him from ever leaving for another college job. (Remember he'd already signed this deal with Arkansas. The only way he or Arkansas could get out of his job there was if he was fired for cause.)
You know Petrino would win on the field. Off the field he's never had a single NCAA issue or substantial player conduct issues. We're a forgiving society in the South and Petrino has asked for forgiveness. For people who say Petrino wouldn't be able to recruit, I say you're full of it. The same Southern mommas who Petrino will be meeting with absolutely loved BIll Clinton, a serial adulterer who actually had a serious job. Fortunately for lots of us, southern mommas are the most forgiving people on Earth. Petrino just has to look those moms in the eye and admit he screwed up, and he feels terribly about it.
Petrino was always a jerk. If anything, his moral failings might make him more relatable more likeable even. Every time a celebrity screwed up and went on Oprah we ended up liking them even more than we did before. The same could be true of a more humbled Petrino.
Plus, with his low head coaching salary, you could surround Petrino with a collection of the best assistant coaches in the country. If Petrino only costs a million or so, you have millions of dollars to spend on the best assistant coaches in the country. Go get the best recruiters in the country and pay them more than anyone else can afford. Go sign the best defensive coordinator in the country and leave Petrino to just focus on the offense. Are you telling me that Petrino with the best job that he's ever had and the best staff that he's ever had wouldn't win big?
So really the only risk you have with hiring Petrino is this -- would he embarrass you off the field?
After the abject public humiliation he's already faced, I think the answer is no. Also keep in mind that you have no idea if the new coach you're hiring will refrain from embarrassing you off the field either. In fact, I'd argue that whoever the Vols hire is actually more likely to embarrass UT off the field than Petrino is since that new hire won't be chastened by his recent personal failings.
Wouldn't every smart Wall Street trader surveying the UT coaching candidates say that Petrino offered by far the best risk/reward ratio? If Petrino stays out of trouble the Vols will win around 75% of their games with him as a coach, if he gets in trouble, the Vols can cut the cord with no buyout and go hire a new coach. If UT hires a new coach, there's very little guarantee that he actually wins. If he stinks, they'll have a massive buyout to pay to replace him. With today's coaching contracts you often take a massive risk for an uncertain reward. (See Dooley, Derek).
When you actually break down the situation, Petrino is the least risky hire UT could make.
This is a Wall Street trader's dream, a damaged asset that has fallen far beneath his fair market value. If "Money Ball's" Billy Beane was hiring SEC coaches, he'd hire Bobby Petrino in a heartbeat.
Everyone points out that Petrino has always left his employers in a lurch, but it's important to remember that twice that was because he left for other jobs. He left Louisville for the Atlanta Falcons. Is anyone really surprised by this move? Then he left the Falcons for Arkansas. Admittedly, this was done extremely poorly, but in the process Petrino killed any NFL future he might ever have and demonstrated how much loved college football. This means you no longer had to worry about him leaving college for the pros. If Tennessee signed Petrino to a restrictive contract, the idea of Petrino leaving for another job wouldn't exist.
So two of three of Petrino's issues are off the table.
So what's left?
After signing a contract with Arkansas that basically bound him for life to the Razorbacks, Petrino had a stupid affair.
Yes, it's awful if you're in his family, but is it the worst thing that an SEC coach has ever done off the field? Of course not. If every SEC coach who has ever had an affair wasn't allowed to coach in the league anymore, well, let's just say there would be an awful lot of absent sidelines come Saturday. We're not hiring the pope here, we're hiring someone to win football games. Petrino made a mistake, but it's not like he's the anti-christ.
As for the national reaction that would come with UT's hiring of Petrino, I will personally guarantee you that it will be muted.
Sure, you'll get a few shrill columnists who have nothing better to write about ripping the Vols for the hire, but the vast majority of the media and fans will shrug their shoulders and think, "Not a bad hire." Especially if UT has the low-cost contract with restrictive covenants prepared to release when they introduce Petrino to the masses. Granted, there will be some UT fans who claim to be moral authorities -- presumably these people have never sinned either -- who will whine about the hire, but you know how long that whining will last?
Until Petrino wins a game with Tennessee that no one foresees him winning.
Then the critics will vanish faster than vampires in the sunshine.
Hell, if Petrino went on the road in 2013 and beat Florida for the first time in eight years, Vol fans would be willing to elect him governor.
Hiring a coach doesn't have to be complicated.
When you really break it down, Bobby Petrino offers the least risk and the most reward of any potential Vol coach.