Appalled at Petrino hiring? It's easy to take stand with nothing to lose

Thursday January 9th, 2014

Bobby Petrino lead Louisville's rise to power, but his career has been wrought with scandals.
Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

Bobby Petrino will apparently get his old job back, while Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens have been rejected by the Hall of Fame voters once again. The lesson here is mostly about the people who are giving it. Taking a stand is easy when you have nothing to lose.

Hall of Fame voters find it very easy to keep Bonds, Clemens, Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire out of the Hall, because voters have no real stake in the Hall. They just have a stake in the voting.

They don't get a share of Hall ticket sales. They don't own hotels in Cooperstown.

If they want to keep Rafael Palmeiro's mustache off a plaque, they can do that and feel good about it. There are no negative ramifications, except maybe some backlash on Twitter, but in this media climate, is that even negative? Just spell the username right, fellas. Thx.

There are good arguments for keeping known steroid users out of the Hall (though I'm not sure I buy them). But my fellow baseball writers, ask yourselves this: If you could keep your job by voting for Barry Bonds, would you do it?

Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich is facing college football's version of that question this week. Jurich hired back Petrino, and I'm fairly appalled by the whole thing, but then, I've never had a stake in Louisville winning a football game.

If fans bought tickets to watch team GPAs rise, Jurich would hire the best professor he could find. Instead, he will apparently make two gambles: One on Petrino behaving, and the other on Louisville fans and alumni caring mostly about winning. The latter is the safer bet.

Petrino can say he has learned from past mistakes. He certainly has enough learning material. Jurich may try selling the media on Reformed Bobby, which would look great on a t-shirt. And a self-help book titled "How I Changed And You Can Too," by Bobby Petrino, would be a bestseller among people who buy books but don't actually read them. But it is hard for people to change, and harder for them to change as fundamentally as Petrino needed to change.

Petrino is known largely for sending too many X's and O's to a woman other than his wife, but his sins are far more numerous and complicated than that. When he coached at Arkansas, he hired the young lady out of a sea of job applicants. When he was caught, after his motorcycle accident, he lied to his bosses about the affair.

I enjoyed Petrino's brief Oopsie Media Tour after Arkansas fired him. He said he was trying to figure out why he slept with a young blonde woman who was available to him. It is a mystery, isn't it?

Before the Arkansas wreck(s), he ditched the Atlanta Falcons with three games left in the season, without showing the courage to actually tell his players in person. He left them a note. I assume he billed the Falcons for the paper.

Louisville is well acquainted with Petrino's truth allergy. In his last stint with the school, he secretly interviewed for the Auburn job that was held by his former boss, Tommy Tuberville. He learned a lesson: interviewing for jobs without telling people is fun. He had a lot of fun for the next few years. Petrino built a Louisville program to win games and help Bobby Petrino, as longtime Louisville sportswriter Eric Crawford outlines here. He did both.

Has he changed? Well, maybe. Most of us would like to believe that. But that isn't really the relevant question. Louisville is not hiring Petrino because of the ways he might be different, but for the way he is the same.

Petrino was a hell of a football coach in his last stint at Louisville. He built a national power at a place where that did not seem possible. At Arkansas, he won enough to put a scare in Alabama and Louisiana State, programs that do not scare easily. The man can scheme. I mean that as a compliment.

We will never know what Bobby Petrino would have done if he had been a baseball player before there was steroid testing, but I'm betting it would involve enough testosterone to make a ballerina look like Zach Galifianakis. It is easy for me to be appalled by his hiring, just as it was easy for me to be appalled a decade ago, when Bonds was quite obviously juicing. Louisville would love it if Petrino is really a reborn, honest, ethically sound man. You know, as long as he wins.

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