Wally Hall is the managing sports editor for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Arkansas-Little Rock after an honorable discharge from the U.S. Air Force, he is a member and past president of the Football Writers Association of America, member of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association, past president and current executive committee and board member of the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame, and voter for the Heisman Trophy. He has been awarded Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year 10 times and has been inducted into the Arkansas Sportswriters and Sportscasters Hall of Fame.
Like It Is:
Petrino has paid for mistake
Former Arkansas football coach Bobby Petrino speaks at the Little Rock Touchdown Club on Monday, Sept. 9, 2019, in Little Rock.
Bobby Petrino made a mistake when he was at the University of Arkansas.
He’s paid for it dearly.
Three years ago, he waived a speaking fee and paid his own way to speak to the Little Rock Touchdown Club.
His message was heavy on his heart.
He wanted to apologize.
Not just to the LRTDC and not just the UA, but to the great Razorback fans, and he thanked them for the way they treated him and his family.
Petrino’s judgement error was personal.
There’s really no need to discuss his April Fool’s Day folly.
He made a personal mistake and he tried to cover it up.
It only affected the football program because John Smith was named the interim.
It didn’t affect anyone more deeply than it did Petrino and his wife.
By all accounts, he learned a valuable lesson.
This is what he told our man Tom Murphy, who drove to Springfield, Mo., on Monday to attend Petrino’s weekly news conference and visit with the Missouri State head coach for a few minutes:
“I’m doing great,” he said. “I’m having as much fun as I’ve ever had coaching. I’ve got eight grandkids around me all the time. So I’m big smiling and enjoying life.’
His son Nick is his offensive coordinator, and his son-in-laws are defensive coordinator and defensive line coach.
Petrino is valuing his family.
To err is human, to forgive divine.
Almost since it was announced Missouri State and Petrino would play the Razorbacks this Saturday, there have been conversations.
Will Petrino get booed? Will people make signs?
It is doubtful Petrino is really concerned about his reception as much as how many receptions can his receivers grab from talented quarterback Jason Shelley.
What is certain is in four seasons he led the Razorbacks back to the national scene.
He resigned as the head coach of the Atlanta Falcons before the season ended to get the Arkansas job and try to recruit a few players.
The Razorback program was fractured.
Some of the fans loved Houston Nutt, who was forced to resign, and some didn’t.
Petrino’s first season he was 5-7, but four of the losses were by a touchdown or less. The next year he was 8-5 and won the Liberty Bowl.
In his third season the Razorbacks were 10-3, played Ohio State in the BCS Sugar Bowl and finished the season ranked No. 8 in the country.
Petrino’s final season was 11-2, beat Kansas State in the Cotton Bowl and was ranked No. 5 in the nation.
A few months later, then athletic director Jeff Long announced on statewide TV that Petrino had been terminated for lying about his mistake.
Petrino was out of football for a season then landed the Western Kentucky job where he went 8-4. He got him an encore performance as head coach at Louisville, where he was 77-35 but was terminated with one game left in the 2018 season.
The Cardinals were 2-8, and he got a vote of no confidence and a big pay day.
He was out of football for another season and then was hired by the Bears and is currently 15-9 and 11-3 in Missouri Valley Conference games.
His overall record as a head coach is 134-65, including 34-17 at Arkansas, 21-5 during his final two seasons.
Now 61 years old, Petrino is at peace with life. He’s paid the price for his mistake.
He’s still a fierce competitor, always was and always will be. He has a brilliant unconventional offensive mind.
Saturday night he’ll play to win from start to finish. He’ll use every weapon in his arsenal.
Not because it is Arkansas, but in spite of it being a place he realized too late that he loved.
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