Aulbach: Brohm is ideal to take over after Petrino experiment

Jeff Brohm laughs during a press conference in the Harbaugh Club at Smith Stadium after being named WKU’s new head football coach on Friday, Jan. 10.

Lucas Aulbach

Somehow, having one of the better coaches in college football leave WKU after one season might actually help the Topper football program.

It doesn’t make much sense at face value. With his 80-30 lifetime record, Petrino had just led WKU to its best season since joining FBS – they might not have made a bowl, but at 8-4, these Toppers looked like the polar opposite from the two-win teams of just a few years ago. School records on offense and defense fell on almost a weekly basis when the team got hot towards the end of the season.

Some of that production is going to be hard to replace, with key pieces like running back Antonio Andrews moving on, and the Conference USA competition will be tougher than WKU’s Sun Belt Conference foes. But looking at the long-term future of the Topper football program, Jeff Brohm might be exactly what WKU needs to lead the team to its new beginning.

From the day he was hired, anyone who thought Petrino was going to stick around for the long haul at WKU were kidding themselves. A lot of people – myself included – thought he would at least make it two seasons, but the unexpected opening at Louisville, a recently solid program moving to the ACC next year, was an ideal location for the coach to make his next move.

Brohm and Petrino had worked together at times throughout their careers, including time together in Petrino’s first stint at Louisville, before reuniting on the WKU sidelines last season. Holding the titles of offensive coordinator as well as associate head coach last year, Brohm was the ideal candidate to take over the moment Louisville gave Petrino a call.

Brohm was so ideal, in fact, WKU Athletics Director Todd Stewart didn’t even interview another candidate. Petrino was introduced at Louisville Thursday morning and Brohm took the stage at his introductory press conference as WKU’s new coach Friday afternoon – that’s a lightning-quick coaching search. While Stewart denies there ever being a preconcieved plan for Brohm to take over in the event that Petrino left, he definitely didn’t struggle with the decision when the time came.

Stewart himself said the hire was an easy call for he and WKU President Gary Ransdell to make.

“If something is not broken, don’t fix it,” he said Friday. “I think it would have been a waste of time to talk to other people when I was convinced and Dr. Ransdell was convinced that the best person for us is the person sitting between us today.”

The Toppers hit their stride late this season arguably due to struggles getting used to the new coaching system. When former coach Willie Taggart left for South Florida, the playbook was replaced and not a single coach returned for the next season.

That won’t be the case this time. Brohm has some holes to fill – Petrino took wide receivers coach Lamar Thomas with him to Louisville, and he may not be the last coach to leave – but for the most part, the plays and the coaches will be the same. Defensive coordinator (and now associate head coach) Nick Holt will be back with Brohm on the sidelines to help the Toppers move to their new conference as well.

While Brohm might not have the national profile that Petrino had, he also doesn’t have the baggage – the Toppers can now go back to being a football team, not just ‘That team that hired Bobby Petrino.’ And though a big name like Petrino can attract big recruits, Brohm is a Kentucky football icon and well-connected throughout the businesss – several recruits have already reaffirmed their commitments to WKU, and he shouldn’t have a problem recruiting going forward.

While it didn’t end in a bowl berth, the one-year Bobby Petrino experiment ended with the best FBS season in school history. He might not be around anymore, but the man who took over has a good chance to lead WKU to even greater heights.