The other reported candidate was a central figure in one of the worst sexual assault scandals in NCAA history.
Missouri State has chosen the former. On Wednesday, the school announced it would be hiring Bobby Petrino as its next head football coach. He apparently won the job over Art Briles, whose Baylor tenure ended in May 2016 amid reports that he was aware of and covered up numerous infractions by his players, including multiple cases of sexual assault.
Petrino has a 119-56 record as an NCAA head coach, though his last team — Louisville in 2018 — put forth one of the worst recent showings by a major-conference program. The Cardinals beat only Indiana State of the Football Championship Subdivision and lower-Football Subdivision team Western Kentucky (by three points) and lost games by scores of 51-14, 66-31 and 77-16. Petrino was fired 10 games into that season and has not worked since.
But Petrino found his first success as a head coach at Louisville. Hired in 2003 after years as a college and NFL assistant, Petrino guided a program with little in the way of historical success to a 41-9 record over four seasons, capping his initial tenure as Cardinals coach with an Orange Bowl victory and No. 6 national ranking. But he couldn’t even make it through his first regular season in Louisville without entertaining offers from other programs: In late November 2003, days before a game against Houston, he met in secret with Auburn officials about replacing Tommy Tuberville, the man he had worked for as the Tigers’ offensive coordinator in 2002.
Petrino didn’t take the Auburn job and apologized for the clandestine meeting, though he lied about it at first. But he simply couldn’t stop talking to other schools. During the 2004 season, Pat Forde has reported, Petrino met with Florida, Mississippi and Notre Dame about their head coaching positions before issuing an assurance that “I’m not interested in any other coaching jobs, and am happy at the University of Louisville” and signing a sizable contract extension in December.
Five days later, he interviewed at LSU to replace Nick Saban.
At the end of the 2005 season, he interviewed to become the head coach of the Oakland Raiders.
In 2006, he signed another massive contract extension with Louisville, 10 years for $25 million. Five months after that he took the head coaching job with the Atlanta Falcons.
Without Michael Vick, who couldn’t leave Virginia because of the dogfighting charges against him, Petrino’s tenure was a disaster. He struggled to connect with the professional players and cut popular ones. And less than 24 hours after assuring owner Arthur Blank that he wasn’t going anywhere, he signed a contract to become the new coach at Arkansas, leaving his players a laminated note in their lockers informing them of his decision after just 13 games.
Petrino again found success, leading the Arkansas to five, eighth, 10 and 11 wins and a No. 5 national ranking to end the 2011 season, Arkansas’s best poll finish since 1977. But in April 2012, Petrino was involved in a motorcycle crash on an Arkansas highway. After initially saying he was alone when he crashed, Petrino was soon forced to admit — by virtue of a police report saying so — that a woman named Jessica Dorrell had been riding with him. Not only that, but Petrino recently had hired Dorrell, a former Arkansas volleyball player, to work in the school’s football office. And not only that, but Petrino was having an extramarital affair with her.
Arkansas Athletic Director Jeff Long fired Petrino a couple of days later.
After Petrino had a one-year rehab stint as head coach at Western Kentucky, Louisville apparently decided it couldn’t quit the guy who had tried to quit on the school so many times. More success followed, mainly because of the presence of Lamar Jackson, until it didn’t in 2018.
Missouri State is coming off a 1-10 season, last posted a winning record in 2009 and last went to the FCS playoffs in 1990. The school clearly will consider anyone.
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