Auburn University President Dr. William Walker, Athletic Director David Housel and university board of trustees members Earlon McWhorter and Byron Franklin flew to an Indiana airport two days before Auburn's football victory over Alabama to meet with Petrino about the Auburn head coaching job currently held by Tommy Tuberville. Walker issued a statement on Tuesday night confirming the trip to talk to Petrino. He is currently in Texas on a vacation during the Thanksgiving holidays, AU officials said on Wednesday.
Late Tuesday night, and again in a Wednesday morning press conference, Petrino apologized to the University of Louisville and Tuberville. He also announced that he had been interested in the Auburn job, but was no longer interested.
Governor Riley issued the statement on Wednesday:
"As chairman of the Auburn University Board of Trustees, I believe an apology is owed to the University of Louisville for the unofficial visit by Auburn University officials last Thursday. I am extremely disappointed to learn that Auburn President William Walker, Athletic Director David Housel and two trustees flew to Kentucky to discuss the Auburn head football coaching situation with Louisville Head Football Coach Bobby Petrino. President Walker had been reported in the press as deferring any decision on Auburn Head Football Coach Tommy Tuberville's future until they met the week after Thanksgiving.
"It is also difficult for me to understand why I, as chairman of the Auburn board, was not informed that a search process for a new head football coach had begun, especially considering the fact that the promised meeting with Coach Tuberville had not yet taken place. The manner in which this situation has been handled is embarrassing to Auburn University."
Petrino is a former Auburn assistant who served as offensive coordinator and quarterback coach for the 2002 season.
President Walker and Athletic Director Housel have received numerous complaints from Auburn supporters via email, faxes and phone calls about the possibility that Tuberville would be fired in the same year he received a pay raise and contract extension. A buyout would likely cost the university approximately $5 million to $6 million depending on how much it would take to pay for a replacement head coach and his staff.
Tuberville is taking a family vacation with his wife's relatives in Indiana this week. The rest of his coaching staff is expected to be out of the office the remainder of the week with the university closing for the holiday period.