No sooner than the final horn sounded and the national audience embraced the reality of Louisville football, a new narrative began to emerge; “Could Bobby Petrino Return to the SEC?”  First of all, screw the national media who would choose to lessen this team’s accomplishments and rain on what was an otherwise perfect Saturday.  Next, relax Cardinal faithful, I don’t think this edition of “Bobby Ball” is like the Bobby 1.0 version.  Let’s discuss.

Louisville is Different This Time

When Bobby left U of L following the 2006 season, no one could really blame him.  He had an opportunity to take an NFL job, coach Michael Vick, and realize a dream.  He was leaving a school that was in such a powerhouse football conference that the league itself disbanded with respect to football playing institutions. He was young, brash, and looking for the next best opportunity.

Contrast that backdrop to the situation Louisville finds itself in today.  The Cardinals are sitting in the ACC, and not the Big East.  The same ACC that played for the National Championship last year and won it in 2013. As far as facilities, U of L finds itself with an expanded stadium, plans to expand further, and an AD who isn’t happy unless there is literally earth moving on campus.

Currently, this Louisville team is ranked #3 in the national polls, and armed with the front-runner for this year’s Heisman Trophy. The Cards are fresh off of the biggest win in program regular season history and poised for an improbable national title run. Petrino is well paid, and Tom Jurich has gone on record in the past with statement that he will not lose a coach simply for more money.  Advantage –  Louisville

Bobby is Different This Time

It is said that in order to be trusted, you must first be tested. Understandably, when Bobby Petrino’s name is thrown about for potential coaching jobs, U of L fans cringe. He claims he wants to be here forever, that this is a retirement job for him. That was an easier claim to make when Louisville was 0-3 at the start of year two.

There was never a doubt that Petrino could coach. Hell, he could take his and beat yours, or take yours and beat his.  It was in his makeup.  Always looking to prove his genius, Bobby wanted to succeed on the biggest stage, and in the most grand way.  He could coach, and win at any level. While Atlanta was professionally humbling, Arkansas was personally devastating.  To date, his most impressive recovery was more personal than professional.  Mission one, save his family, mission two, reclaim his career.

Cast out from Fayetteville, Bobby found himself trying to land interviews for any job that was open in the SEC; Auburn, UK, anywhere; no one wanted Bobby Petrino.  Western Kentucky offered and Bobby accepted.  Eager to show commitment, and more importantly contrition, Bobby signed a contract that guaranteed WKU wouldn’t lose money on him, no matter how long he stayed. He won at WKU, and instilled a belief that still permeates the Hilltopper program.  When the Louisville job came open, it was too good to be true.

Petrino 2.0 would not have been a possibility had Tom Jurich not offered Petrino the same grace that so many others had refused.  Perhaps the one man who had been slighted the most by Petrino, with his constant job flirtations and ultimate departure,  Jurich trusted Bobby with his program. In year 3 that trust has proven worthwhile. Today, Bobby talks about different things at press conferences.  Sure, there is still the desire and passion to execute flawlessly, there is preaching on fundamentals and technique, but there is more.  Bobby has said that his players love one another.  Not only has he said it, he has said that they don’t mind telling one another that as well.  Raise your hand if this sounds like Bobby 1.0.

Bobby Petrino gushes about his family.  During the first tenure, no one really knew if Bobby was human, let alone if he had a family. It was thought that he just stayed in the office and developed plays 24/7.  Today, his grandchildren are front and center.  His Petrino Family Foundation takes high priority for him, and he even showed genuine tearful emotion recently when discussing his son Bobby Petrino Jr. with Seth Davis.  All of this leads to the conclusion that Bobby 2.0 is different. Advantage – Louisville

But the Talk Still Remains

So why does the national media continue to bang the drum about programs such as Auburn and LSU?  Why is there the uneasy feeling every time Petrino’s name is mentioned?  It is simply because of Petrino’s history, or his story.  Until the SEC teams come calling, and he remains at Louisville, there will always be that palpable tension amongst fans.

For his part, Petrino has always said, that it is a “show-me” world.  If the magic continues, I am sure he will get the opportunity to show all of the Cardinal faithful that this is where he wants to be.  I for one, believe him.

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Keith Poynter

Keith Poynter graduated from the Louis D. Brandeis School of Law in May of 2011. While in law school, Keith studied Sports Law as well as other core curriculum. Prior to becoming an attorney, Keith worked in the insurance industry for 6 years, and was a police officer in both Kentucky and Tennessee for 6 years. As an avid sports fan, former basketball official and current youth sports coach, Keith is heavily involved in sports when not at work or with his family at the lake. Keith's diverse background makes him an excellent source for legal opinion about issues surrounding the sporting world. Whether the matter be criminal or contractual, Keith's unique experience and education allows him to offer insight that may be missed by the casual fan. Keith is available for commentary on any legal issues that may arise in the Kentuckiana area and will routinely post articles concerning local and national sports law topics.

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