Aulbach: WKU on an upward trajectory with or without Petrino

Head coach Bobby Petrino yells after the Jaguars score a touchdown during the second half of WKU’s game against Southern Alabama Sept. 14, 2013 at Ladd – Pebbles Stadium in Mobile Ala.

Lucas Aulbach

Since the day he was hired, Topper fans have known the day would come that Bobby Petrino’s name came up as a potential coaching replacement at bigger schools throughout the country.

Now that former Louisville coach Charlie Strong has accepted the same position at Texas, a lot of local fans and national analysts have spent the past few days weighing a potential reunion between Petrino and the school that game him his first head-coaching opportunity back in 2003. Reports that Petrino may have interviewed with Louisville Athletics Director Tom Jurich on Tuesday only fanned the flames.

The only person who knows how Bobby Petrino is going to play this one is Bobby Petrino. He’s been notorious thoughout his career for abruptly leaving his team for a new job (just ask fans of the Atlanta Falcons, or, somewhat ironically, Louisville fans), and even the most optimistic WKU fans knew when he was hired that Petrino living out his four-year contract with the Toppers was unlikely.

The good news for Topper fans is even if Petrino should return to the Cardinals, the WKU football program is set to build on what the team has accomplished in its short time under the coach.

When he hired the coach, WKU Athletics Director Todd Stewart knew as well as anyone that Petrino would get looks from some bigger programs looking to fill coaching vacancies in the long college football offseason. There’s a reason there was a $1.2 million buyout written into the coach’s $850,000-a-year contract. If Petrino leaves tonight, he (or, more likely, Louisville) will have effectively paid WKU $350,000 to coach in Bowling Green for the year.

While there has yet to be any word on whether Petrino has interviewed with Louisville, it didn’t take a genius to see a situation like this coming – Stewart undoubtably has a list of candidates he thinks would want to take over at WKU if Petrino should head back up I-65.

The first name on that list should be Jeff Brohm, WKU’s current offensive coordinator and assistant head coach. Brohm has a long, storied football history in the state of Kentucky, has spent the past decade working his way up the coaching ladder, and has long been penciled in as a potential replacement for Petrino if he were to accept another job. Stewart should have plenty of other names to look at as well.

Another thing working in WKU’s favor is its current position in the college football landscape. This isn’t a perennial one- or two-win team anymore – it’s a team coming off three straight winning seasons and about to join Conference USA. It’s already a talented squad, and it would be a very attractive job to several up-and-coming college coordinators looking to break into the head-coaching ranks.

Petrino wasn’t brought in to be the coach of the future for WKU – he was brought in to build on the momentum former coach Willie Taggart build and keep the Toppers competitive as they transition to a bigger conference. If he takes another job, the next coach should be in a good position to take over where he left off.