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Petrino Hire A Low-Risk Move For Hilltoppers

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Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images
Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

When Western Kentucky announced the hiring of Bobby Petrino last December, questions were asked of both the university and the former Arkansas head coach. Petrino was often asked why he didn’t take a more prestigious job in the SEC (Kentucky, Tennessee, and Auburn were looking for coaches at the time). WKU athletic director Todd Stewart was often asked about the wisdom of hiring somebody with a reputation like Petrino’s. The answer to the first question is simple. The answer to the second question... not so much.

Western Kentucky is the perfect choice for Petrino at this rebuilding stage of his career. Petrino started his coaching career in the state and knows it well. It makes sense that he would come back to Kentucky to lick his wounds.This isn’t to say that the Hilltoppers will serve as no more than a springboard, just that WKU offers Petrino a strong program away from the harsh lights of the SEC.

Indeed, it seems that the Hilltoppers were tailored to attract Petrino. In quarterback James Mauro, Petrino has a near physical clone of Ryan Mallett that can be shaped to his will. WKU’s receiving corps is nothing to scoff at either. While they were a luxury in former coach Willie Taggart’s offense, Petrino is much more likely to utilize players like Rico Brown and Boe Brand as downfield threats. That in addition to an experienced offensive line means that WKU may boast one of the more formidable offenses in the Sun Belt.

Then there’s the defense. WKU possesses a good front seven and one of the scariest linebacking corps in the country. Middle linebacker Andrew Jackson logged 100 tackles last year, 20 of them for a loss. With that many toys to play with, Petrino is going to have a field day against his Sun Belt comrades.

While this is all fine, there is of course that one looming question: how long will he stay?

Petrino’s reputation is certainly not on the side of "long."

While at Louisville, Petrino infamously courted coaching offers publicly.

After coaching the Atlanta Falcons for 13 games, developing the reputation of a tyrant (according to one former staffer, he made the players and staff eat a pregame meal in total silence – keep in mind these are professionals), he quit by leaving a note in the locker room.

Then, of course, there’s the entire affair that got him kicked out of Arkansas. While Petrino insists that he’s a changed man, its perfectly reasonable to suspect that by December, WKU will be seeking a new head coach.

Still, even if Petrino stays in Bowling Green for just a year, the influence can only be positive. For all of his personal faults, Petrino wins games. Not to mention the influence Petrino will have on the quarterbacks in the program. WKU is a strong program that is going to compete in 2013 no matter who the coach is. It can only help if the coach is a man with a 75-26 career collegiate record. Even if he’s there for just a year, the effects of Petrino on WKU will resonate beyond 2013.