|Latest twist on Petrino's career path lands him at Arkansas|
|Written by Admin|
|Tuesday, 18 December 2007 14:01|
``I would be shocked if anybody really wants to leave Arkansas,'' Broyles said.
Now, along comes Bobby Petrino to test that theory.
Petrino left the Atlanta Falcons last week after only 13 games, then was immediately introduced as the Razorbacks' new coach. In Arkansas, the hiring was celebrated. Everywhere else, it was vilified.
Still, the fact is that after a two-week search to replace Houston Nutt, the Razorbacks landed a proven college coach, an offensive innovator who could help the Hogs finally move into the Southeastern Conference's top tier.
There's one nagging question, though: How long will Petrino stick around?
``I think the fans here have created a path for a coach to be successful,'' Broyles said. ``The tremendous support that we have. There's a very, very positive path in place for the coach because of the fan support - what they've allowed us to do.''
The skepticism surrounding Petrino's future has little to do with Arkansas. Although the Razorbacks have been in turmoil lately, they play in a top conference and boast splendid facilities. They also have no rival for statewide support.
Petrino's history invites scrutiny. He was an assistant for nine different teams before going 41-9 as Louisville's head coach from 2003-2006. While with the Cardinals, his name repeatedly came up for other coaching vacancies. There was an infamous episode in 2003 when Auburn set up a secret interview while Tommy Tuberville was still the Tigers' coach.
After the 2004 season Petrino met with LSU. A year later he turned down the Oakland Raiders' job. He went from Louisville to Atlanta this past January, and when he left the Falcons last week, the criticism was relentless.
``I'm not going to say anything in my defense,'' Petrino said Tuesday. ``To be honest with you, I haven't heard any of that. I haven't watched any of it. I've just been working on what we need to get done here. ... We're going to go forward. We're not going to talk any more about the Atlanta Falcons. We're talking about the University of Arkansas, the Razorbacks, what our future is here.''
Although Petrino didn't want to discuss the controversy, his new employer stuck up for him.
``Look carefully at the sources of the criticism,'' Arkansas Chancellor John White said in an e-mail. ``You will find they tend to come from people who are tightly connected to the NFL. ... Because the agenda and the sources of the criticisms are so obvious, I have not given them credence.''
Even Broyles, who last changed schools in 1957, defended Petrino's career choices.
``I think when you're on the way up and you haven't got exactly what you want, you move,'' Broyles said. ``I think you have that right and that privilege to do that. That's a good decision to make.''
Broyles is retiring at the end of the year. His successor, Jeff Long, handled the search for a new football coach.
This is a time of transition for No. 25 Arkansas, which plays No. 7 Missouri in the Cotton Bowl. Nutt faced fan unrest during his final season before leaving Nov. 26 and taking over at Mississippi.
The task for Petrino's task is to win games and unite the state, and his aggressive offensive style could provide a big boost to a program that has lacked an efficient passing game in recent years.
``I'm excited about the offense that he's going to be bringing,'' said Anthony Lucas, a receiver for the Razorbacks during the late 1990s. ``I think it's a great hire.''
Added Broyles: ``He brings the reputation that Arkansas people think we deserve to have here. That was, I think, a critical issue - getting someone that the fans could say, 'Well everybody else wants him and we got him.'''
The Razorbacks might have the last laugh, and Petrino might eventually win back the respect of the football community. But for that to happen, this marriage better work out.
``I don't think he can go to the NFL right now,'' Lucas said with a laugh. ``I think he's going to be here for a while.''