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Bobby Petrino’s track record off the field is not good.
People in Atlanta know that. People at the University of Arkansas know that. University of Louisville President James Ramsey and Athletic Director Tom Jurich know that. Petrino’s transgressions are evident before he is ever interviewed for a job.
Louisville did not hire Petrino for a second time as a head coach on Thursday morning because of his off-the-field past. What they did hire was the Petrino who won 83 games in nine years and was wildly successful from 2003-2006 with the Cardinals.
That is the catch with Louisville’s hire in regards to UK. No matter what he’s done off the field, Petrino has whipped UK. Petrino was 4-0 against the Cats while at Louisville, three of which were wins by 16 or more points.
Petrino moved to Arkansas after the 2007 season and suffered his only loss to UK, a 21-20 Cats win in October 2008 in a season where Arkansas finished with a 5-7 record. He did not face UK again until last August while at Western Kentucky University, where the Cats lost 35-26 in head coach Mark Stoops’ first game.
UK and Louisville’s football rivalry has the potential to become more exciting than it has been in some time. That will ring true when — and only when — UK wins against the Cardinals on a consistent basis, something the program has certainly struggled to do against Petrino.
For at least the immediate future, the differences in Stoops and Petrino will be more evident than the color of their shirts.
Stoops is defensive-minded and unproven as a head coach. Petrino is an offensive coach that has taken two college programs (Louisville in 2006, Arkansas in 2011) to BCS bowl games.
The worst thing on Stoops’ record is the expletive-laden outbursts towards officials last season. Petrino was fired from Arkansas in April 2012 after a motorcycle accident inadvertently revealed that he hired his mistress to work in the Arkansas football program and report directly to him.
There are other instances where Petrino has been less than truthful to bosses and to his players. All of those off-the-field instances aside, Petrino has won at each of his three college stops, something Stoops has not done yet.
The reality of college sports is this: if Stoops’ football success as a head coach approaches Petrino, he would receive as many opportunities as his now-rival coach, no matter the off-field distractions.
Fans, administrators, coaches and players all want to win. Petrino’s hiring at Louisville for a second time is a bold reminder, loud enough for UK to hear.