Jurich says this is 'right place' for Petrino

A lengthy interview and support from countless former players helped convince University of Louisville Athletic Director Tom Jurich that Bobby Petrino was the right hire.

From the moment that Charlie Strong decided to accept the offer to become the new head coach at the University of Texas, former Cardinals head coach Bobby Petrino became a top candidate to take the reigns at the University of Louisville.

"How could he not be," stated U of L Athletic Director Tom Jurich when introducing the Cardinals new head coach on Thursday.

For some, the reasons not to hire Petrino at Louisville are aplenty. Multiple job flirtations during his previous tenure with the Cardinals, his quick departure from the Atlanta Falcons before the end of the season and having an affair with a younger woman that he also hired to work for him while at Arkansas have provided plenty of fodder for detractors.

Since his firing at Arkansas, Petrino has worked on rebuilding his image. He took a year off from football to focus on improving his relationship with his wife Becky and his children. He returned to football in 2013 as the head coach at Western Kentucky, where he guided the Hilltoppers to their best FBS finish at 8-4, including a season-opening win at Kentucky.

"I'm a big believer in who can come back from adversity," Jurich said. "Life's real easy when people are patting you on the back.

"Has anybody been through more adversity than him? I can't imagine, I can't imagine. To me, that's the PHD I was looking for, who can come through adversity."

Western Kentucky Athletic Director Todd Stewart described Petrino as a "model citizen" during his year in Bowling Green.

While strained during his years at U of L, the relationship between Jurich and Petrino improved following his leaving for the NFL, a departure that the Athletic Director described on Thursday as one that was done the proper way.

As Jurich began his search to replace Strong, he immediately thought of Petrino. His resume speaks for itself. He's proven in every step of his career that he knows how to develop players and win. He experience as both an offensive coordinator and head coach on both the college and professional level is difficult to match.

"First of all, I think the opportunity to get someone who is very seasoned as we head into the ACC, but somebody who is definitely a changed person," Jurich said. "I don't think anybody will quarl with his knowledge. He's as good as anyone I've seen or been around. I think the opportunity to get Bobby Petrino is what sold me. Like I said, if it was the same Bobby as 8 years ago, I wasn't interested and I had to be convinced of that."

The convincing, which is still a work in progress, began during a nine hour meeting that became heated at times.

When the two first sat down, Jurich was adamant that Petrino be open and honest with him, telling him, "do you have enough courage to look me in the eye and tell me that you've changed. I said, 'if you lie to me, I'll kill you.' He said he's a changed man.

"I believe I need to forgive. When he left, I can't tell you how mad I was at him."

Impressed by the outcome of their lengthy meeting, the positives of Petrino continued to grow. However, Jurich had expected as much. It was countless former players that expressed their support for their coach that surprised Jurich.

"The great thing about him, first and foremost, is he knows what to do between the lines," said Jurich, who claimed that more than 100 former Cardinals, including many still in the NFL, contacted him in support of Petrino returning. "He'll know how to get this team ready. I think the only surprise in this entire situation was the outpouring of support this guy has. I wouldn't have believed it if I didn't live through this week."

Despite Petrino's positive interview and the growing support from those that played for him, it was the coach's wife that convinced Jurich to make the decision.

"The most important thing to me was Becky," he explained. "That was the most important thing. When I got to spend time with her – he had told me things were pretty much great, but I wanted to hear it from her. She sold me."

During his introduction as the Cardinals new head coach, Petrino called Louisville is "home" and described the position as his "destination job." His new contract, which is $3.5 million per season for 7 years, includes a hefty $10 million buyout clause.

However, even with the prior secret interviews with other programs during his first run at U of L, Jurich believes Petrino is a changed man and that a buyout was an important part of the new deal.

"A buyout to me is not even important," Jurich said. "He told me put it at $100 million if I wanted to. He's not going anywhere.

"You all know I've been wrong before, but I feel that this is his last stop. It's his destination. He wants to stay here 15 years. I really feel that this is the right time and the right place for him."


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