Petrino is going back to Louisville as the head coach, taking the job left vacant when John L. Smith, the man Petrino coached for in 1998, left Louisville to become head coach at Michigan State.
"We talked about it last night as a team and the players gave Coach Petrino an ovation," AU head coach Tommy Tuberville said after Auburn's first Orlando practice on Thursday. "That is what you're in this business for and the players know that. They look at it as a family and obviously the guys aren't excited for him leaving, but excited for him and his family for his promotion.
"They all wished him the best and it was good to have him out there as usual," Tuberville said. "It will be a busy week for him, trying to put together a staff while coaching, but we have gotten everything in and we will have the continuity that we have had throughout the season."
The players and coaches are practicing in the mornings and in the afternoon and evenings they are generally free to spend time with friends and family in Orlando. However, Petrino is using his free time to get ready for his new job at Louisville, which he will start immediately after Auburn plays Penn State in the Capital One Bowl on New Year's Day.
Petrino has extremely high praise for Tuberville and his one season at Auburn, noting that he will leave AU as a better coach and person than when he arrived.
Petrino quickly won the respect of fellow coaches and the players on both offense and defense with the offensive system he put in place after arriving at Auburn last January following three seasons with the Jacksonville Jaguars of the NFL. Petrino says he turned down other head coaching opportunities earlier this year, but said that the chance to return to Louisville was too good to pass up.
Tuberville agreed and advised him to take the job, but at the same time offered him a raise if he would stay at Auburn. Tuberville said the opportunity to be a head coach at a Division I school that has a chance to win immediately was a "no-brainer" for the 41-year-old Petrino, particularly with him being familiar with the situation after coaching there for the 1998 season.
"It is like having a senior leave," Tuberville says. "Here is a guy that has been in this business for a while and worked at it real hard and this is a graduation for him. It's not a lateral move, obviously. It's a head coaching job, which is very hard to get."
Capital One Bowl Notes: Daniel Cobb is the only player who did not arrive on Christmas Day, Tuberville says. The senior quarterback missed practice on Thursday, but is expected to be at the second bowl practice on Friday. Cobb's absence was excused due to a death in the family...Tuberville, like most of the other coaches, arrived in Orlando early to spend extra time with his family. Recruiting went into a dead period last Saturday and Tuberville arrived in Orlando the next day taking his boys--eight-year-old Tucker and six-years-old Troy--to see the amusement parks. Tuberville says he has had "a great time" so far in Orlando...The Tigers will participate in a Fellowship Of Christian Athletes breakfast at 7 a.m. on Friday at First Baptist Church of Orlando. After their 10:45 a.m. practice, some of the players will be hitting the links for a players/staff golf outing.