Hog Calls:

Petrino had it all, until he didn't

By: Nate Allen
Published: Saturday, September 17, 2022
Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino (center) is shown during practice Thursday, March 14, 2012, in Fayetteville.
( Michael Woods)
Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino (center) is shown during practice Thursday, March 14, 2012, in Fayetteville.

FAYETTEVILLE — Offensive describes Bobby Petrino’s Arkansas coaching tenure.

On the field and off.

On the field concerns Arkansas tonight. Petrino returns to Reynolds Razorback Stadium coaching the offensively potent Missouri State Bears against Coach Sam Pittman’s 10th-ranked Razorbacks.

Spanning Razorbacks coverage from 1973 to present, including Hall of Fame coaches Frank Broyles and Lou Holtz and prolific offenses under Ken Hatfield and Houston Nutt, it seems from here that Petrino offensively ranks above.

Creativity, diversity, prowess for passing blended with power when required, Petrino’s offenses displayed it all during his 2008-11 Razorbacks run. His 34-17 record at Arkansas was capped by 10-3 and 11-2 campaigns that closed in the Sugar and Cotton Bowls.

Petrino lit up the Razorbacks program.

He also blighted it. Many predicted he would given his past.

As Louisville head coach, he clandestinely interviewed for the Auburn head coaching job while Tommy Tuberville, for whom Petrino previously served as Auburn’s offensive coordinator, still head coached Auburn.

Petrino was the Atlanta Falcons head coach promising owner Arthur Blank he would continue there, then abruptly bolted to Arkansas.

Arkansas took something of a similar chance before.

In 1993, Broyles hired Danny Ford, a Hall of Famer for his Clemson record including a national championship, but ousted in a power struggle with Clemson’s administration.

As Ford would say later in his slipped sideways syntax about a different matter, “Been that, done there.”

Ford promised Broyles and Chancellor Dan Ferritor he would ruffle no higher-ups’ feathers. And he didn’t. The usual suspect for a coach’s dismissal, a couple of 4-7 seasons after winning the 1995 SEC West, ended Ford’s tenure without controversy, though he should be credited recruiting the players Nutt coached to a smashing 9-3 debut in 1998.

Unchecked by then-new Athletic Director Jeff Long, Petrino increasingly did as he pleased without reproach. He treated support staff abominably.

The Cotton Bowl, staffed by salt-of-the-Earth good folks always friendly to Arkansas and reciprocated, experienced Petrino and his minions behaving so rudely that a UA grad of high Cotton Bowl position professed wishing never seeing the Hogs picking Cotton again.

Following Broyles’ decades of open-door policy, Razorback alums felt unwelcome during the lockdown Long-Petrino era.

When Petrino’s motorcycle crash revealed crossing an irrevocable line hiring his mistress on the football payroll, he was fired amid scant support for a coach who had won so much.

That said, the post-Petrino Hogs under four coaches suffered six losing seasons. They didn’t exceed eight victories until Pittman’s Hogs went 9-4 last year.

Pittman credits some of the recent success built from the Petrino proof that Arkansas indeed can win.

“Last time Arkansas was relevant was when Coach Petrino was here,” Pittman said. “We’ve used that in recruiting.”

Given Petrino’s prowess, it’s the Razorbacks’ task tonight to keep his Arkansas relevance past tense.


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