Bobby Petrino will return to Arkansas on Saturday, September 17 with his new team, Missouri State, to face his old team in a college football game at 7 p.m. EST.
Ten years later, Petrino will take his Missouri State program to Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium to face his former team. Both teams enter the game undefeated by securing wins in the first two games of the season. Ten years ago, when Petrino was coaching for Arkansas, he had a motorcycle accident which ultimately led to his firing because he was linked to an affair with a 25-year-old assistant he had hired.
The game will air on SEC+ and ESPN+ at 7:00 p.m. EST at Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville, Arkansas.
- WATCH ARKANSAS VS. THE STATE OF MISSOURI FREE HERE
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Bobby Petrino turns 61 these days, nearly five years after being on the national stage with Louisville and, much more importantly, more than a decade away from the outrageous fire of the coach in Arkansas.
Just listen to him discuss his return to Fayetteville on Saturday, however, when he leads Missouri State against his old program in a highly anticipated game for the FCS program, he quickly turned into a juggernaut.
Petrino smiles and laughs, cracks jokes and deflects praise, and no question, no matter how awkward, is off limits. Soon it is apparent that Petrino has found some peace in the Ozark Mountains of southwestern Missouri.
“We’ll see how it feels when I get there. Right now I’m just going to focus on the week and the preparation,” Petrino said this week. “I’m sure there will be feelings and emotions when I walk into the stadium, but it’s not about me. This is about our football team. We’ve been a team dedicated to working hard together. It’s really about the players.
Critics – and make no mistake, Petrino still has plenty – say it’s always been about him.
Petrino got his start coaching nearly 40 years ago at his alma mater, tiny Carroll College in Helena, Montana, but he was so determined to climb the professional ladder that he rarely stayed in one place. for more than two years.
Weber State and Idaho, Arizona State and Utah State, Nevada and Auburn.
It wasn’t until 2003, when he landed the job of chef at Louisville, that Petrino’s career took off. He took a solid program under John L. Smith and turned it into a powerhouse, winning 41 games to losing nine. The Cardinals finished twice in the top 10 in the last AP poll and capped the 2006 season by winning the Orange Bowl.
Then came his disastrous turn as NFL coach and his incredibly quick downfall.
He lasted just 13 games in a five-year deal with the Falcons, resigning less than 24 hours after telling Atlanta owner Arthur Blank he was in it for the long haul. He informed his players with a four-sentence note card placed in each of their lockers, effectively dropping them with a 3-10 record to take over as Arkansas coach.
No one has ever questioned Petrino’s ability to build a college program, so it’s no surprise he quickly turned the Razorbacks into a winner. He had them in the Liberty Bowl the second year, won 10 games the following year and went 11-2, won the Cotton Bowl and finished fifth in the nation in what became his final season in 2011.
“He’s an excellent coach. He was when he was here and with the Falcons and Louisville,” current Razorbacks coach Sam Pittman, who ranked them No. 10, acknowledged this week. “He’s just a really good coach.”
One with flaws, though. And they had nothing to do with X’s and O’s.
One morning in April 2012, Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long learned that his football coach had been involved in a motorcycle accident in northwest Arkansas. Petrino initially told Long he was alone, but the police report later revealed he had a female passenger on board when he crashed. And when the university opened an investigation into the accident, it discovered that Petrino was having an affair with the woman, whom he had hired to work in the athletic department.
Petrino was eventually fired for cause, and the lasting image of his halcyon days in Arkansas was found to come from a press conference in which he showed up wearing a neck brace with a bruised face. and beaten.
“He made a decision, a conscious decision, to mislead the public,” Long said after firing him.
Petrino, a married father of four, issued a lengthy apology that fell on deaf ears. He admitted to engaging in an “inappropriate relationship”, making several bad decisions and said he accepted “full responsibility for what happened”.
Still, success covers many ills, so it didn’t take long for Petrino to get another chance. He went 8-4 with Western Kentucky in his only season, then Louisville called again. He took the Cardinals to four straight bowl games, but was unable to replicate the same magic since his first overshoot, and a 2-8 start to the 2018 season led to another shot.
That’s when Petrino’s real comeback began.
After being out for a year, he was hired by Missouri State, a middle program in the nation’s toughest FCS league that hadn’t qualified for the playoffs since 1990 — when it was known. as Southwest Missouri State. And despite taking over amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Petrino is tied for the league title and had the Bears in the playoffs the first year, then won eight games and nearly upset the league. Oklahoma State taking them back last season.
The Bears are currently ranked fifth in the nation heading into Saturday’s game at Arkansas.
“I am proud of our team. I’m proud of our assistant coaches and the players we have,” Petrino said. “We have a team that really likes to compete. They like to look at each other. And they’re not afraid to fail, so they go out and signal a fade on fourth and first, and that’s great, when somebody has that kind of confidence and belief. This is what you want. That’s what you’re trying to get young men to do: don’t be afraid to fail.
Wise advice from someone who has succeeded and failed many times over the years.
Petrino would prefer Saturday’s game to be about the players on the pitch, but he’s not naive. He knows all eyes will be on him as the teams emerge from the Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium tunnel and prepare for kickoff.
The same goes for players on the sidelines. They know his story. They know his story.
“He’s been pretty low key, the same person he’s always been — same old man,” Missouri State quarterback Jason Shelley said this week. “I think it will rub off on the guys, let us know it’s a regular game.”