Bobby has left the building: Petrino returns ‘home’ to coach Louisville

WKU’s Bobby Petrino shouts at the referee during their game against Morgan State at Western Kentucky University on Saturday, September 21, 2013. Western would go on to win 58-17. 

Elliott Pratt

The University of Louisville officially introduced Bobby Petrino as the next football coach of the Cardinals Thursday morning.

Petrino leaves WKU after one season, where he spent just 13 months on the job and produced an 8-4 season, and returns to a place he calls “home”.

This will be the coach’s second stint at UofL after going 41-9 as the head coach from 2003-06. Before then, he spent the 1998 season with the Cardinals as the offensive coordinator.

“It’s great to be back home,” Petrino said in his introductory press conference Thursday morning. “I’m so excited to come back and be a Card. I’m more energized, more excited than I’ve ever been. This is my destination job.”

Petrino’s contract at WKU calls for a $1.2 million dollar buy out, meaning that after one season with Petrino in charge, WKU will be paid $350,000 to have hired him. But to Louisville, the buyout will not be an issue, who signed Petrino to a seven-year, $24.5 million ($3.5 annual salary), with a $10 million buy out.

Jurich said Louisville will pay the $1.2 million buyout, and Petrino even pushed to raise his current buyout, saying Louisville is where he wants to end his career.

“A buyout to me is not even important,” Jurich said. “He told me to put $100 million in there. He wants to stay here. He wants 15 years.”

A clause in Petrino’s contract with WKU requires him to use his best efforts to establish a home-and-home series.

“I think we will use our best efforts,” Petrino said.

WKU president Gary Ransdell told the Herald there were no efforts to retain Petrino once Louisville called with interest. Athletic director Todd Stewart said he anticipated Petrino to be at WKU for more than one year, but knew he wouldn’t turn down an opportunity to return to Louisville.

“I certainly expected him here more than a year and I think if Charlie Strong doesn’t take the Texas job, Bobby Petrino is our head coach in 2014. Stewart said. “I certainly expected him here more than a year and I think if Charlie Strong doesn’t take the Texas job, Bobby Petrino is our head coach in 2014.

“But certainly the Louisville job, with where their program is, what they’ve achieved in recent years and with them heading into the (Atlantic Coast Conference), that’s a big-time job. I don’t think there’s anything that we could’ve done here that we weren’t already doing that would have persuaded him to turn that down and stay here.”

Stewart said an announcement on WKU’s new coach will not be made today, but the process has already begun. Ransdell said he was meeting with current offensive coordinator Jeff Brohm Thursday afternoon to interview for the head coaching vacancy.

A source close to the program told the Herald on Wednesday that an announcement could be made as early as Friday.

“I feel very good about the season and the way it went and what he and his staff accomplished and I know our players have a lot to be proud of,” Stewart said. “I’m confident in that when we announce our head coach and we start moving forward that we will certainly be able to continue the momentum that we finished last season with.”

When Petrino came to WKU in December of 2012, he didn’t speak much about his previous jobs. But Thursday was different, as he thanked Stewart, Ransdell and the university for giving him his second chance at coaching football.

“I didn’t know if I’d ever get the opportunity again.” Petrino said. “I went to Western Kentucky so I could get close to Louisville…this is our home.”