There have been some coaching changes lately, and finally it appears that Les Miles is out of the news, because the talking heads have something sexier to talk about. Bobby Petrino, formerly of the Atlanta Falcons, is the new head coach at Arkansas. The you-know-what has hit the fan.
I am somewhat ambivalent about the moral implications of this. Petrino has indeed left his team in the middle of its season, and that's generally not a respectable thing to do. But, in his defense, it's not like that team was fighting for a playoff spot. They were 3-10 and headed nowhere fast. It was also pretty clearly not what Petrino signed up for, given that when he signed with the Falcons, they had a dynamic quarterback entering the prime of his career.
On the other hand, one can look at this as a pattern. Bobby Petrino has never been at one job for longer than 4 years, and only made it as far as 4 years once in his career. He used every job he's ever had as a stepping stone to another job. What's more, he was involved in "Jet Gate", whereby certain Auburn officials, at the end of the 2003 season, flew up to Louisville to interview him, while Tommy Tuberville was still very much the head coach. The ploy backfired; Tuberville saved his job; and everyone involved ended up looking bad. He also made Les Miles-esque statements about his love for Louisville, and signed a contract extension, mere weeks before accepting the Atlanta Falcons job. And you see what's become of the Louisville program since.
Then there's his demeanor as a person. It has been said that he was a dark cloud over the Atlanta Falcons facilities during his time there. He was rude to everyone, and would verbally dress down veterans and consummate professionals like Warrick Dunn.
I am truly doubtful this is a good hire. Bobby Petrino will be mercilessly negatively recruited. He is the very definition of an unprincipled mercenary who will leave your program high and dry if he gets a better opportunity. He's done it twice in less than one calendar year. He's shown no evidence of bringing any stability to a program, as he's never actually stayed in one place long enough to develop any roots.
It would be one thing if this was Michigan, or USC, or Florida, or an NFL job. For an ambitious coach, those programs are definitely destinations, not pit stops. This is Arkansas. The recruiting base is not strong. The facilities are not among the greatest in the country. It's not in a sexy location. There is little prospect of Arkansas being a national contender on a regular basis, or even a consistent conference power. For an ambitious coach, therefore, I don't think Arkansas is a destination job. Therefore, I think that Arkansas will constantly face the prospect of Petrino leaving for a bigger gig if he has success there. He also has a demonstrated desire to coach in the NFL, though he may never get that chance again.
I wonder if this deal was entered hastily by both sides. Petrino reportedly was first contacted about this on Tuesday night, and was on a plane within hours, signing a contract on the plane. Did he just want out of Atlanta that badly? Did he really examine whether he was a good fit at Arkansas? Assuming McFadden is leaving for the NFL, do they really have a lot of talent next year, or are they set up for a bad season?
On the other hand, Petrino is a proven college coach, who took a real also-ran of a program and made it into a national contender. Of course, he was doing it in a conference that really didn't have any entrenched powers they had to unseat. It will be a lot harder at Arkansas.