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The Bobby Petrino shenanigans timeline

A decade-plus of debacles.

Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports. Banner Society illustration.

Bobby Petrino is 119-56 as a college head coach.

He's also moved on from eight different jobs after one season each and amassed multiple significant scandals.

To say the least, Petrino does not have a stellar reputation. Let's take a look at why, via a chronology of his various questionable deeds.


After his only season as the Jaguars' offensive coordinator, Petrino takes the Auburn OC job, allegedly without telling Jacksonville head coach Tom Coughlin.


After one year at Auburn, Petrino takes the Louisville head coaching job. He then interviews with Auburn boosters for the Tigers' head coaching position, behind the backs of his eventual two-time boss (Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich) and former boss (Auburn head coach Tommy Tuberville, who had yet to be fired).

Petrino lied about having any contact with Auburn officials -- until two reporters for The (Louisville) Courier-Journal confronted him with documentation of the private plane that brought the university president and athletic director into Petrino's backyard. I was one of the two reporters. And even when faced with the evidence, Petrino resisted telling the truth until Auburn issued a statement owning up to the whole affair.

Boxed into a corner, Petrino asked forgiveness and chalked it up to the inexperience of a "young coach." Louisville forgave him because he was 9-3 and his offense blew up scoreboards.

Tuberville stays with the school until 2008. Petrino will have three different head coaching jobs in that time.

2004 to 2006

Petrino interviews for at least three other head coaching jobs — the Raiders, Notre Dame, and LSU — and is reportedly in touch with multiple other teams. At one point he says, "I'm not interested in any other coaching jobs."

He gets a raise.

July 13, 2006

Petrino signs a 10-year contract extension with Louisville, telling the world he isn't going anywhere:

"We did want to make a statement," Petrino said. " ... I also wanted to make sure that everyone understood - and I know I've said it - that this is where my family wants to be and where I want to be. But I want everyone to really believe it when it is said."

Asked later if he was emphatically telling other teams not to pursue him, Petrino said, "Yeah. That's why we did the buyout. That's why I wanted the buyout, so everybody understands that."

January 7, 2007

It has not yet been 10 years, but Petrino goes somewhere. He is hired as the head of the Atlanta Falcons. He says he's taking what he "truly feel[s] is the best job in the National Football League."

"I'm in shock right now," a Louisville player tells ESPN. "We're coming off a great Orange Bowl win and we were all thinking national championship. I didn't think this would happen. He said he enjoyed college football."

November 26, 2007

Petrino says he hasn't considered leaving the Falcons, who are 3-8 without quarterback Michael Vick.

I haven't given it one bit of thought. I certainly don't want to get into any speculation and rumors and having to deal with that. I'm focused on our football team here.

December 10, 2007

Petrino resigns from the Falcons 13 games into his first season, telling his players via a 78-word letter posted in the team's locker room.

One player, Lawyer Milloy, responds by writing "coward" in red Sharpie on his copy and displaying it for reporters. Three years later, the defensive coordinator, Mike Zimmer, will call Petrino a "gutless bastard."

Hours after leaving Atlanta, Petrino is introduced as the head coach at Arkansas.

December 2008

Jurich, the Cardinals AD, on the ongoing process of cleaning up Petrino's Louisville mess:

Bobby went to areas where he thought he was strong recruiting and some of them panned out and some didn't. That's the nature of it. But listen, we had to clear out a lot of discipline issues. And our numbers suffered. We cleared 21 kids out of here, and that's a lot. That's a big hit for anybody to take, Eric. I don't know anyone that has. But we want to do things the right way.

April 1, 2012

Arkansas head coach Petrino crashes his motorcycle, suffering injuries.

It's later discovered that his passenger on the bike was a 25-year-old former Arkansas volleyball player and current football team assistant with whom he was having an affair. He'd hired her (possibly illegally) over several far more qualified candidates.

Petrino attempts to hide the assistant's presence at the crash, asking a witness not to call 911. Arkansas eventually releases a statement saying Petrino was alone in the crash.

April 11, 2012

Petrino is fired after he, among other things, lied to athletic director Jeff Long. There was also the revelation that Petrino had paid his mistress $20,000.

"We've put a lot of hard work over these last four years to get where we're at,'' running back Knile Davis tells the Associated Press. "Just to see it go down the drain in 24 hours is just, you know, it hurts. But we can't do anything but move forward.''

An NFL team is reportedly interested in him.

December 20, 2012

Petrino is hired by Western Kentucky as its new head coach after rumors connecting him to Arkansas State, Colorado, and others.

He does not promise to stay forever, saying, "You can't know what the future is going to hold, but we hope that we can be here as long as possible."

March 2013

Our own Steven Godfrey profiles Petrino and the move to Western Kentucky. Athletic director Todd Stewart admits that a quick departure by the coach is a likely result.

We want him here for a long time, obviously, but I'm not naive to the turnover. This was Willie Taggart's alma mater and he only stayed here three years. Certainly change is a possibility but I don't want to have to replace a head coach every year. I think continuity is important.

August 2013

Anonymous SEC coaches on the ongoing process of cleaning up Petrino's Arkansas mess, another multi-university trend:

They are going to be slim in a lot of spots. It's going to take them three years to get a good foundation. It's a product of bad recruiting - which is typical of a Bobby Petrino school. It's the same thing that happened at Louisville that got Steve Kragthorpe fired. Petrino didn't leave him any players. It's the same thing at Arkansas. They have no players on defense. Petrino would load up on offense and leave the cupboard bare. That's why he can't ever get over the hump.

January 8, 2014

Petrino is being hired again by Louisville after one season with the Hilltoppers.

August 11, 2016

This really wouldn't register all that much for any other coach, but Petrino issues a statement, claiming his Twitter account might've been hacked after it interacted with some NSFW material publicly. That could be true, but Petrino's account long had lots of very interesting follows that were highly unusual for public figures associated with academia, so to speak.

November 2016

Twice, Petrino denies having any knowledge of leaked Wake Forest game plan materials, as the minor scandal known as Wakeyleaks begins. However, Louisville later suspends an assistant coach on Petrino's favored side of the ball after that coach admits he shared leaks with defensive coaches. Therefore, if Petrino really didn't know, he was one of only a handful of coaches on his entire staff who didn't. Maybe he's telling the truth, though!

November 2018

Louisville fires Petrino amid a disastrous season. The Cardinals are so eager to get rid of him that they swallow an unusual $14 million buyout. They then become the latest team to begin the process of cleaning up Petrino’s mess.


We’ll update as needed.