Strike one occurred in late November of 2003 when Petrino secretly met with Auburn officials, including the school's president and athletic director. Petrino quickly apologized for allowing the meeting to take place and would eventually guide the Cardinals to the school's sixth consecutive bowl appearance and a final record of 9-4, the most wins for a first-year head coach in the program's history.
Strike two unfolded in front of the nation's eyes over the past week as Petrino flirted with the open position at 2003 National Champion LSU. Just days after agreeing to a new contract at U of L and claiming that he was looking forward to his future at Louisville, Petrino admitted to meeting with officials from the SEC school. The day after defeating the 10th-ranked Broncos of Boise State at the AutoZone Liberty Bowl, Petrino released a statement claiming that he had removed his name from consideration at LSU and once again apologized to U of L and it's fans.
"LSU has a tradition-rich program with much to offer, but as I reflect on what we've accomplished in a short time here at Louisville, we're on the brink of establishing a great program that will compete for a national championship. I want to be the coach who sees that through."
"I know I have caused great consternation for Tom Jurich and created additional confusion for our passionate and loyal fans. That was never my intention."
"I apologize for this confusion over my job status this past week and I ask for your continued support for our players, this staff and this University as we build this football program into a national power."
While Petrino's apology was quickly accepted by some, most U of L fans are taking a more cautious approach, while others are ready to sever the relationship with the second-year head coach.
However, if using the the 'three strikes' approach the rapid climb of Cardinal football would continue on. Petrino mentioned the possibility of competing for a national championship in his statement released on Saturday afternoon and with him on the Cardinal sideline that goal continues to be visible in the near future.
Fan support at the
Liberty Bowl (ITV)
I say, give him one last swing and see how he handles the pressure.
No one can question Petrino's abilities to prepare and motivate his players, as well as design a high powered offense built upon the strengths of the players and not a particular scheme. His success on the recruiting trails created what is arguably the two best group of players in school history and this year's class would likely rank among the nation's best.
Now that U of L has completed it's final season of football in Conference USA (insert applause here) and begins to set it's sights on Big East play, now is the time when Louisville needs a coach with the capabilities of Bobby Petrino. It needs a smooth transition.
Poised to have a top ten, if not a top five, ranking and likely Big East favorites to start the 2005 season, the Cardinals could very well find themselves in a Bowl Championship game next season. Looking even further out, Louisville's developing talent and what should be a very challenging schedule in 2006, one could easily speculate that the Cardinals could be one of the strongest contenders for a national championship.
However, with all the impressive possibilities now within reach, U of L must take a strong stand with Petrino...no more warnings. One more strike and you're out!
If I could offer up a few suggestions for Petrino they would be as follows:
1. Find a new agent, or even better, go without one for a year or two. Agents are motivated by money and the spotlight and Coach Petrino, you will find all the money and spotlight you need right here at the University of Louisville. Thank your agent for his services and then part ways.
2. Ask your boss Tom Jurich to no longer grant other school's permission to talk with you about their open coaching position. What good can come of it? You've technically said no to Auburn, Notre Dame, LSU and others, so what else is there? One peep to another school from here on out would be coaching suicide.
3. With the money you could save from ridding yourself of an agent, use it wisely and invest it with a public relations firm. Many of the so-called mistakes were created simply by poor timing and a PR firm can quickly fix that.
4. Hit the road! Prior to LSU-gate, a number of the top players in the country were strongly considering a future wearing the Red and Black of Louisville. The recruiting dead period ends Monday morning, so make sure you are one of the most visible head coaches on the road. Start with a direct flight to New Jersey and be sure to visit the highly talented group that made official visits to U of L just over a week ago.
5. Just win baby! Continue to study the offenses of others throughout the country and improve an offense that most don't think can improve. It's amazing how winning can heal wounds.
6. Stick to your words. Make Louisville your home for many years to come. Have your team competing for a national championship. Do that, as well as following the above recommendations, and you would most likely become the next great coach, not only at Louisville, but throughout the country. Think of JoePa or Bowden. Stop flirting with other school's, continue winning at Louisville and you could find your name alongside those.
It's difficult to forgive following the last debacle and I would suggest that no one forget, but Coach Petrino is worthy of one more strike. Louisville has benefited greatly from his first two years of service and years three and four could bring even greater rewards.
Keep your eye on the ball Coach.