Bobby Petrino is back in the spotlight after his Louisville Cardinals destroyed Florida State over the weekend, and it’s supposedly bringing new details about his hiring at Arkansas to light.
Fox Sports radio host Colin Cowherd said on his show Tuesday that, according to his sources, Petrino left his head coaching job with the Atlanta Falcons for the Razorbacks mid-season because Arkansas had given him a 24-hour window to make the decision.
“You want to know what happened?” Cowherd said. “I’ll tell you what happened, ’cause I have the sourcing. He got hired by Atlanta. In August, Michael Vick went to prison, and he thought, ‘Uh-oh.’ Joey Harrington was his quarterback.
“And so Bobby Petrino said, ‘This is not gonna work. You hired me for Michael Vick.’ If you watch what he’s doing now in college (with Louisville QB Lamar Jackson), that’s what they hired him to do with Michael Vick. And so all of a sudden, his agent said, ‘Arkansas will hire you, but you have to make a decision now.’ And he’s like, ‘What do you mean now?’ And they said 24 hours. Make a decision.”
If he didn’t decide in that time frame, who does Cowherd say Arkansas was going to hire instead? Lane Kiffin, who was the head coach of the Oakland Raiders at the time.
“If not, they’re gonna hire Lane Kiffin who’s at Oakland with the Raiders, ’cause Lane hated Al Davis and wanted out,” Cowherd said. “And Arkansas liked him. Tennessee eventually hired him, but Arkansas wanted to hire Lane Kiffin. And Bobby Petrino said, ‘This thing’s a disaster. I’ve got Joey Harrington, and I’m trying to create Michael Vick’s system, and Michael’s in prison.’ So he bailed on it.”
Kiffin was hired by Tennessee in 2008. He would later leave that job to become the head coach at USC. After the Trojans fired him in 2013, he became the offensive coordinator for Alabama, the job he holds now.
This chain of events, if true, affected the entire SEC. If Petrino had stayed with the Falcons through the end of the season, not only would he not have gone to Arkansas, but Kiffin would have ended up in the SEC West seven years earlier, as a head coach rather than as an assistant. Tennessee also never would have hired Kiffin, and might have made an entirely different hire in 2008.
Listen to all of Cowherd’s comments on Petrino here, beginning at the 57:00 mark.