Copyright 2014 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
This is what Tom Jurich, the Louisville athletic director, said Thursday: "One thing I believe in is forgiveness. Bobby has convinced me he's a changed man."
This is what would've been more honest: "I like winning games and making money, especially since my own income is tied to both. So I don't care if Bobby Petrino breaks a stone tablet of the Ten Commandments over his head every week before kickoff as long as he can beat Florida State."
This is what Jurich claimed he heard when he sought feedback on Petrino from "20 or 30" former players, including "some in the NFL": "They love him. They adore him. They said, 'He was the greatest influence on my life.' "
This is what former Falcons running back Warrick Dunn, as upstanding individual as there ever has been, said of Petrino after the coach's midnight exit with games still remaining in the 2007 season: "Coward" and "Classless" and "Any family or any kid he recruits should worry. Do you really buy into what a guy says when he did the same thing to Louisville to come to Atlanta? He did the same thing to Atlanta to go to Arkansas. I think his history and rep speaks for itself."
Louisville rehired Petrino to replace widely respected Charlie Strong. Winning comes in all forms and species.
This is sort of like the skit when Charlie Brown keeps trusting Lucy when she says she'll hold the football so he can kick it --- except in this case, Lucy is short for Lucifer and Charlie Brown is an academic institution whose mission is to raise men and women and mold young minds (bahahaha).
Look. We've been down this Petrino dirt road a million times.
He job-hops 10 times in 17 years. He pledges his love and loyalty to Louisville, then meets in an airplane hangar with Auburn officials. He signs a 10-year extension with Louisville, then six months later takes the Falcons' job, then pledges his commitment to the job and the team's owner, Arthur Blank. Then he walks out the next day with three games left in the season to take the Arkansas job, where his next public appearance was doing the "Pig-sooey" chant at a midnight news conference. Arkansas Athletic Director Jeff Long cackled with delight, only to be pooped on when Petrino fooled around with a subordinate whom he had hired and gave a bonus to. So Arkansas fired Petrino and Western Kentucky hired him because, "Everybody deserves a second chance," the school's athletic director said and . . . wait . . . how many second chances is that?
Is a little transparency too much to ask for? Was it too much to expect a Louisville official to stand up at Thursday's news conference/coronation/soul selling and declare: "We're moving into the ACC. We want to win. Bobby Petrino may have proved himself to be a tool and an invertebrate, lacking any moral decency, but he does really cool things with four wide receivers."
Jurich was asked if he was concerned about national perceptions that Louisville had traded its integrity for winning. Answer: "No. We take hits all the time. We know what we stand for."
That much is clear, at least in actions, not words.
I believe in forgiveness. I believe in second chances. I believe in redemption and hope and the power of prayer.
I also think that if Petrino truly is a changed person after 52 years in the underworld, after turning his personal and professional lives into twin grease fires, nobody can possibly know that yet, least of all an employer that has been burned once.
I also believe an academic institution shouldn't be in the position of taking that risk, as quaint as that may sound.
Petrino was hired to win games and sell tickets. That's all Louisville cares about. If he happens to have evolved as a human, that will be a bonus.
Jurich said that during his eight-hour interview of Petrino, he recalled the coach's 2007 exit and said, "I told him I didn't like him. I didn't like anything about him."
Yet, he hired him anyway. Why? Because Petrino "looked him in the eye" and said he's changed. Because Petrino's wife vouched for him. Because, "I've been assured I got the new Bobby Petrino."
And his word is as solid as oak. Poison oak.
This isn't about redemption. It's about revenue. This is Faust pushing all of his chips into the middle of the table and asking, "So you're sure we can make it to the college football playoffs?"
Petrino said several times, "Louisville is our home" (echoing words he said before leaving Louisville the first time). He apologized for his previous exit. He talked about family and his grandchildren. He even choked up, almost on cue.
He referenced his "mistakes" and said, "It's something I'm not going to do again," though it's uncertain which misstep he was referring to.
Jurich: "I know I've been wrong before. But I feel this is his last stop."
In truth, it doesn't matter. This isn't about loyalty, honesty or integrity. It's about wins and dollar signs and selling one's soul to achieve both. But those sound bites wouldn't play as well.
Check out photos of Bobby Petrino's ugly exits from the Falcons and Arkansas.