Though his exit from Arkansas in 2012 was abrupt, Bobby Petrino still has followers in our state.
A former Razorback assistant coach likes him a lot, it has become known. Petrino, late of Missouri State, is headed to UNLV as offensive coordinator under new coach Barry Odom, sources told ESPN Thursday.
That announcement came one week after Petrino was linked to Texas A&M as OC for beleaguered, though highly paid head coach Jimbo Fisher.
Petrino has earned a reputation as the Great Playcaller for elaborate offenses at Arkansas and Louisville among other spots. The man from Montana is also, in a sense, the Larry Brown of college football, someone who seldom stays anywhere long.
Petrino left the NFL's Atlanta Falcons by night, remember, to replace Houston Nutt at Arkansas after the 2007 season. After a 5-7 first year at Arkansas, he took the Razorbacks to three straight bowl games, beating Kansas State in the Cotton Bowl after the 2011 campaign and East Carolina in the 2010 Liberty. Arkansas, losing to Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl in 2011, made its only appearance in the former Bowl Championship Series under Petrino.
Then, in an April Fool's Day story that proved no joke, he was out at Arkansas. A motorcycle accident with a woman to whom he was not married but was found to be on the UA athletic department payroll proved a deal-breaker for the coach. School officials said he lied about the incident with the woman, hired as a football staffer and with whom he was having an affair. Coming off 10- and 11-win seasons, he was fired.
"Unfortunately, I will always get to carry that with me, how it ended there," Petrino told ESPN this summer. "I hurt a lot of people and let a lot of people down."
Petrino took the Falcons' job after agreeing to a new deal at Louisville, which he led to top-10 finishes in 2004 and 2006. After sitting out the 2012 season following his Arkansas exit, he coached one year at Western Kentucky before returning to Louisville in 2014, winning nine games twice in four seasons and coaching Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson in 2016, before being fired late in 2018. Out of football in 2019, he resurfaced at Missouri State.
Petrino improved his image in Arkansas with a Little Rock Touchdown Club appearance, at which he received a warm welcome. A decade since his departure, the UA athletic department felt passions had cooled enough to schedule Petrino's Missouri State team in 2022 (Jeff Long, the athletic director who fired Petrino, himself was fired late in the 2017 season during what became a disastrous stretch for UA football).
Arkansas won 38-27 Sept. 17 in Fayetteville, though Petrino's team jumped ahead 17-0. Missouri Valley Conference co-champion in 2020, Missouri State finished 5-6 this year, 3-5 in the Valley.
Odom coached three years at Arkansas as defensive coordinator under Sam Pittman after being fired as head coach at Missouri, his alma mater, in 2019. Odom was linked briefly to the Tulsa HC opening after Arkansas finished a 6-6 season with a Nov. 25 loss at Missouri, appearing with Pittman at a press conference to announce the Hogs would play Kansas in the Dec. 28 Liberty Bowl in Memphis.
Although certain media members keep him at arm's length, Petrino carries the reputation as a top offensive mind. He brought in Ryan Mallett (transfer from Michigan) as Arkansas quarterback in 2009. The next season, Mallett passed Arkansas to the rim of a victory over defending national champion Alabama at Fayetteville
"Having coached against him -- the things they do on offense, the way his players are coached -- it's phenomenal," Alabama's Nick Saban told ESPN this summer. "... He's one of the toughest guys I've gone against."
New Louisville coach Jeff Brohm, who coached under Petrino at Western Kentucky and Louisville, added, "He could take a group of college students on an intramural team, put them out there on the field and help them win games."
Petrino was expected to arrive in Las Vegas on Thursday to accept his first job as an assistant since he was offensive coordinator at Auburn in 2002. The SEC school later contacted Petrino at Louisville while Tommy Tuberville was under contract as head coach.
Petrino's son-in-law, Ryan Beard, defensive coordinator at Missouri State, is a top candidate to replace him as head coach, ESPN reported.
Petrino reconciled his marriage with Becky Petrino, his wife since 1985. Daughter Katie was a leading golfer at Fayetteville High.