The science behind the Western Kentucky – Bobby Petrino marriage was evident from the start. Western Kentucky got instant credibility, a proven winner and unprecedented publicity in hiring Petrino. Monday afternoon’s press conference hosted hundreds of onlookers, including a number of national media no doubt making their first trip to Bowling Green, Ky., and a national telecast via ESPN News.
And Petrino got a second chance eight months after being ousted at Arkansas and a season spent on the figurative sidelines instead of the literal ones.
“I basically have spent the last eight months working with my family, trying to make things right with my wife Becky and my children,” Petrino explained. “We’ve been in counseling, and I’ve learned a lot.”
Western Kentucky athletic director Todd Stewart said Petrino was his first choice in replacing the outgoing Willie Taggart. “The name Bobby Petrino is synonymous with consistent success at the highest level,” said Stewart. “He is the guy to lead our program to a place it’s never been, I’m convinced of that.”
“This is the United States of America, and we’re a country of second chances,” said Stewart. “I was confident in talking to him and to other people that he deserved a second chance, and we’re happy to give him that.
“There is no doubt he is a better man and a better coach because of it.”
Petrino said that the decision to take the Western Kentucky job was a family one, stating that returning to the Bluegrass State after his tenure at Louisville was “like coming home.”
“Football has never been a job for me, it’s been a way of life and it’s been that way for my wife Becky and our children,” Petrino said. “It was time to get back into it.”
Petrino listed off the standard goals for any new coach at a non-BCS program, expressing the desire to consistenly reach bowl games, compete for the Sun Belt title and ultimately reach the top 25, a BCS game. Petrino event went as far to say he hopes to turn the Hilltoppers into the next Boise State.
Petrino thanked Taggart, and with good reason. Taggart sheperded Western Kentucky into FBS, jumping from 2-10 in their maiden voyage to consecutive 7-5 seasons in 2011 and 2012. Petrino inherits a roster built in the Harbaugh Way, where running the ball and playing tough defense is the chief goal. “The fact that there’s such a good base of tight ends and offensive linemen, that makes your job easier,” said Petrino.
Petrino and Stewart both fielded the obvious questions of how long a coach that jumped from Louisville to the Atlanta Falcons to Arkansas can possibly be expected to stay at Western Kentucky.
Stewart cited his confidence in the contract that WKU offered Petrino, which instantly makes him the highest-paid coach in the Sun Belt at $850,000 a year.
After eight months of self-reflection, Petrino gave the most honest answer he can reasonably be expected to give: “You can’t know what the future is going to hold, but we hope that we can be here as long as possible.”