John Clay

Louisville pulls the plug on Bobby Petrino 2.0. What’s next for the Cards?

Petrino cuts press conference short after loss to Kentucky

Louisville Coach Bobby Petrino took issue with a question about star quarterback Lamar Jackson's decision-making following the Cards' loss to Kentucky on Saturday.
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Louisville Coach Bobby Petrino took issue with a question about star quarterback Lamar Jackson's decision-making following the Cards' loss to Kentucky on Saturday.

Bobby Petrino updated never quite compared to the original version.

So the University of Louisville pulled the plug on Bobby Petrino 2.0, announcing Sunday it had relieved its head football coach of his duties after Friday’s 54-23 loss at Syracuse dropped the Cardinals to 2-8 on the season and 0-7 in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Yes, that escalated quickly. Just two Novembers ago Louisville was on the cusp of making the College Football Playoff, ranked fifth in the country and led by a soon-to-be Heisman Trophy winning quarterback in Lamar Jackson. Cardinals ruled.

Then U of L was crushed 36-10 on a Thursday night at Houston. Nine days later, the Cards lost to archrival Kentucky 41-38 on a late field goal. Last year, Jackson’s senior year, Louisville was a so-so 8-5, including 4-4 in the ACC. A fan base yawned.

This year, the Cards collapsed. Petrino failed to find a suitable replacement for Jackson. Led by its third different coordinator in three years, the Louisville defense turned into a complete mess, allowing 42.1 points per game.

Chances are, there won’t be a lot of tears shed in Louisville over Sunday’s announcement. Even when he was compiling a 41-9 record over four years in his first U of L go-around, Petrino didn’t win many friends. He secretly interviewed for other jobs. He bolted for the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons, only to leave after 13 games for Arkansas. His four-year Fayetteville tenure ended in humiliation over lies about a mistress and a motorcycle ride.

After going 8-4 at Western Kentucky in 2013, Petrino was welcomed back to U of L by AD Tom Jurich as a supposedly kinder, gentler, more mature Bobby Petrino. Those close to the program, however, would tell you there wasn’t much evidence of that.

Pro tip: When you’re not the easiest person to work with, you’d better win. When you stop winning, there will be no one to speak up for you, no one to take your side. After going 1-10 in 1994, Bill Curry was granted a couple of extra years to try and get Kentucky football turned around. After going 2-10 in 2000, with the NCAA investigating his program, Hal Mumme did not.

So Jeff Brohm will be Louisville’s next football coach, right? He’s the obvious choice. Brohm grew up in Louisville, played quarterback for Howard Schnellenberger at U of L. In his second year at Purdue, he’s a hot young coach on the rise in the profession.

Hold the phone, however. Someone close to Brohm recently told me he’s not sure the 47-year-old would leave Purdue for his alma mater. Brohm has the Boilermakers on the uptick. He’s beloved in West Lafayette. He’s on the winnable side of the Big 10 division split. And Purdue’s facilities are better than you’d think. Is Louisville really a better job than Purdue?

The X-factor is family considerations, of course. The Brohms are almost embedded into the city and U of L’s sports fabric. Jeff’s father, Oscar, played at Louisville. Jeff’s brother Brian played quarterback for Petrino when Jeff was an assistant with the Cards. Their brother Greg was a receiver at Louisville. The call back home might be difficult to resist.

What effect will Sunday’s news have on Kentucky football? That all depends on Vince Tyra’s choice for Petrino’s successor. The new Louisville athletics director made a smart move luring Chris Mack from Xavier to rebuild U of L’s basketball program post-Rick Pitino. Will Tyra go 2-for-2 with his football selection?

In the meantime, UK Coach Mark Stoops has more immediate concerns. His team laid an egg Saturday at Tennessee. His offense hasn’t scored more than 20 points in a game since September. And, oh yeah, down the line, he’ll have to prepare for a bowl game. It’s not all bad, people.

Consider this: Not that long ago we wondered if Stoops could keep up with Petrino. Guess we were thinking of Petrino, the original version. On the field, Petrino 2.0 was just not the same.

Bobby Petrino’s coaching record

2013Western Ky.8-4

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