WKU can expect winning, not loyalty

December 10, 2012

Over the past decade, Bobby Petrino has been disloyal to his former boss, Tommy Tuberville, to the people who had paid him at Louisville, to the Atlanta Falcons — players and management. Let’s see, who else?

Oh yes, he stuck it to the taxpayers in the state of Arkansas and most famously, of course, apparently to his own family.

On Monday, Western Kentucky hired him as its new football coach. Bobby Petrino is a leader of young men again, where he figures to be among the highest-paid employees at an institution of higher education.

The disturbing thing is that this isn’t even a curious hire. Petrino is obviously desperate, forced to drop down to a place such as Western Kentucky. Not even the greediest, seediest big boys of college football were willing to touch him yet. He is still too toxic even for them.


What does Western Kentucky get out of it? A winner. Well, on the football field, anyway. It gets a guy who will win big, assuming he stays through an entire season. It gets the best guarantee it can that the program, finally up to a bowl game this year, won’t drop off immediately just because its coach and program-builder, Willie Taggart, left to become the coach at South Florida.

I would advise Western Kentucky officials to quietly begin searching for Petrino’s replacement already. He’s not going to stay long. Maybe two years, maybe two months.

Maybe only till Thursday.

But the point is there will be no surprises. Western Kentucky knows exactly what it’s getting — a great coach who is loyal to only one thing on the planet: Himself. It’s OK, though.

This time, all that baggage came on his resume.

The lesson everyone is already taking from this is that college football places winning above all else. Well, if that’s still news to you, then shame on you. College football is a money chase, first and foremost. Western Kentucky is starting to smell the money.

Petrino can get it.

Western Kentucky will talk about second chances, say that Petrino has done his time. What else do you expect these people to say?

His punishment lasted eight months, since he was fired at Arkansas.

Actually, that isn’t exactly true. Western Kentucky is still part of the punishment.

It’s sort of a halfway house for Petrino, as he tries to work his way back into the real world he’s used to.

I don’t mean to put down Western Kentucky. It has a fine basketball tradition, and might be a great place, out there in the middle of nowhere, for all I know. But surely Western Kentucky knows how Petrino sees the place.

It has to know, too, that if Petrino had been a good citizen, then Western Kentucky would never have gotten him.

Last we heard from him, his face was all smashed up and his neck was in a brace after he had smashed his Harley while on a joy ride with his young, blonde girlfriend. He lied to his bosses about it, but was undone with facts listed in a police report.

Turned out, he had gotten his girlfriend a job in the school’s athletic department. Before that, his crimes had been mostly about signing contracts and then immediately interviewing for bigger gigs. He did it at Louisville, talking with Auburn officials when his former boss, Tuberville, was in trouble but still on the job at the school. He left the Falcons after less than a season.

Don’t get the idea that I’ve worked up a whole lot of outrage over his behavior, though. This is all just a description of fact. Petrino’s sins deserved to end up with his firing at Arkansas. But they should not end his career.

Yes, he put his girlfriend on the payroll at a state institution. That makes him about the 10,000th CEO in US history to do that. Other than that, his issues have been personal ones. I don’t care about his sex life, don’t concern myself with what was and wasn’t acceptable in his marriage.

That’s none of our business.

A coach signing a contract and then looking for another job? That is the norm for his profession.

He hasn’t been in any trouble with the NCAA. As far as we know, he hasn’t been paying quarterbacks, letting boosters run his program. He hasn’t been breaking rules, except for every last rule of human decency.

So he sat out one season. Now, he goes to Western Kentucky, where he will stay until his name is no longer mud. This is what a disgraced coach has to do. Mike Price, Larry Eustachy, George O’Leary. Drop down, re-build your name, show that you can behave, and still win. Then you are back.

There is always a spot for someone who can coach. And don’t forget:

Through all the snickering over Petrino’s personal issues, he can definitely coach.

If I had to guess, it will take him two years, unless Western wins huge next year. Then, he’ll be gone after one season.

It’s hard to imagine Petrino sitting in a living room with parents, trying to recruit a high school kid. Those parents will know that there is no way Petrino will be there to coach their kid through his college career.

Petrino would seem to be unable, too, to preach to young men about ethics, teamwork, loyalty. He can’t really preach anything.

Stay in school? Nope. Commit to your teammates? Nope.

But somehow, it will work.

Petrino is just that good.