This is the second of a three-part series which looks at Coach Petrino’s career in comparison to the things going on around him. The first is Petrino Understood — Part I on Hog Database. Things have settled and we need to catch up on the history now to help us with Arkansas’s Future. Remembering the series of coaching changes the University of Arkansas endured in the early 90’s, we were reasonably concerned about the U of A going through another merry-go-round of coaches.
I wanted to decide for myself whether the Most Inflammatory Personal Attacks I’ve Ever Seen on a Coach, which start Part Three, were warranted. I’m passing along to you what I found.
The question last posed was “When Petrino took the head coaching job at Louisville on December 23, 2002, where was he in the grand scheme of coaches?”
The recent firestorm over Petrino’s coaching move from the Atlanta Falcons was unprecedented in my view. For more than 24 hours it was reminiscent of the criticism unleashed when the Baltimore Colts picked up and moved under cover of darkness to Indianapolis… and neither had physcially harmed a person nor an animal.
Was the harsh criticism FAIR or not because HogFans need realistic expectations of how Coach Petrino may act in the future? We’ve been through enough! Are we in for another 5 coaches in 5 or so years?
Coach Petrino has coached at ULouisville twice. The first was as an offensive coordinator 1998. By then he had 9 different coaching positions in 15 years with Arizona State being the only big name on the list of schools that aren’t football powerhouses at any level. Utah State head coach John L. Smith added Bobby Petrino to his staff in July, 1995, and then Coach Petrino followed John L. Smith to Louisville when the latter became head coach at Louisville in 1998.
1983 Carroll College (Graduate Assistant)
1984 Weber State (Graduate Assistant)
1985-86 Carroll College (Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks/Receivers)
1987-88 Weber State (Receivers/Tight Ends)
1989 Idaho (Quarterbacks)
1990-91 Idaho (Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks)
1992-93 Arizona State (Quarterbacks)
1994 Nevada (Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks)
1995-97 Utah State (Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks)
1998 Louisville (Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks)
1999-01 Jacksonville Jaguars (Quarterbacks)
2001 Jacksonville Jaguars (Offensive Coordinator)
2002 Auburn (Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks)
People took notice of Louisville’s offense from the beginning. In a 2005 retrospective SI’s Stewart Mandell placed the September 6, 1998, Kentucky v. Louisville Football game as one of his picks for events representing the new offensive revolution… and the accolades were not just regarding Tim Couch’s passing ability. Even that many years later, Mandell noted how a 1-10 Louisville team went 7-5 the next year.SI Link There are numerous other articles on the explosive Louisville offense.
Petrino’s salary as an offensive coordinator at Louisville is elusive but it wouldn’t be any more than $120,000 and most likely less despite the national recognition. When the Jacksonville Jaguars needed an assistant and came calling, who could blame Coach Petrino for taking the job? By the time he left Jacksonville in 2001, it was estimated that he was earning $250,000 per year working under Tom Coughlin. The quotes and story from 2001 have a familiar ring to them now.
“Petrino said the main reason he went to Auburn is that Coughlin didn’t allow the children of coaches or players to be in the locker room or on the sidelines at practices and games. And Petrino said it’s important for him to have his two teen-aged sons, Nick and Bobby, as part of his professional life. “I left the pro game because I wanted my boys to be back on the sideline and the locker room and be a part of it,” he said. “They weren’t that here. It’s how it was for any [Jaguars] coach.” Bob Petrino apparently was willing to take more than a $100,000 pay cut in his haste to leave Coughlin’s coaching staff this week.
Petrino, who just completed his first season as the Jaguars’ offensive coordinator, surprised Coughlin on Monday by abruptly quitting to become offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Auburn. It wasn’t even a lateral move from a financial standpoint for Petrino, who reportedly will earn $130,000 a year at Auburn. Petrino is believed to have made roughly $250,000 per year under Coughlin, whose own contract pays him $2.4 million annually.
“I’m looking forward to the change,” Petrino told Alabama reporters Monday. Petrino spent the first 16 years of his coaching career on the college level and insisted his desire to return to the college ranks was behind the move. Petrino, though, was under pressure after the Jaguars plunged 13 spots to 20th in the NFL in total offense this season while allowing a franchise-record 63 sacks. “I grew up in college football,” Petrino said. “I gave it a good run in the NFL and learned a lot, but [Auburn] is where I want to be.” January 9, 2002, Jacksonville Florida Newspaper Link
Continuing to be an offensive coordinator / assistant coach plainly wasn’t Bobby Petrino’s goal, but moving to the NFL for 3 years and returning back to college coaching was probably a necessary path for anyone wanting to become an upper echelon college football coach. At Auburn, from the article above and other accounts, Bobby Petrino was earning $130,000 to $150,000 in 2002. Auburn did alright that year. It went 9-4 with a win in the Capital One Bowl, and when Bobby Petrino’s former head coach John L. Smith was hired by Michigan State, Bobby Petrino got his chance to be a head coach at Louisville. He turned some heads at Auburn, too.
Knowing what we know now, and even what was known in 2002, it almost seems ridiculous that Coach Petrino’s salary as Louisville’s new head coach was $450,000 per year plus incentives. It borders shocking.
December 23, 2002
“Petrino, 41, signed a five-year contract with a base salary of $450,000, plus up to $300,000 a year in incentives. Petrino was [leaving Louisville head coach John L.] Smith’s offensive coordinator during his first season at Louisville in 1998. The Cardinals went 7-5 and led the nation in total offense (560 yards a game) and scoring offense (40 points). Petrino left Louisville for the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars in 1999 and was the team’s quarterbacks coach for three seasons. This season, Auburn ranked third in the SEC in total offense (397 yards) and scoring offense (31 points).” USA Today 12-23-2002
What a steal! If it’s not quite coming together, after toiling for 15 years in football oblivion, then becoming nationally recognized with NFL experience for 4 more, Bobby Petrino’s first head coaching job paid him less than a colt would earn in 2 minutes at a Grade III Stakes race at Churchill Downs.
Being at Louisville was part of the problem. Petrino got his shot at a head coaching job in a moderate-sized city (Metro area poplation around 1.2 million people) where his football team is at least 3rd or 4th on everyone’s entertainment list after Horse Racing, Louisville Basketball (you know… Denny Crum and Rick Pitino) and Bourbon sipping (which may or may not enjoyed independently from the other three). Pitino himself was earning more than 2 million per year from the contract inked one year previously. USA Today 3-21-2001
Then, too, Bobby Petrino was taking the head coaching job at a then Conference USA school. By comparison East Carolina coach John Thompson made between $350,000 and $400,000 annually (you know HogFan, the first defensive coordinator under HDN.) University of South Florida football coach Jim Leavitt probably summed up the Conference USA football salaries the best.
“After a brief flirtation with the University of Alabama, USF’s only football coach decided to stay in Tampa by signing a five-year deal worth $2.4 million Dec. 12, seven years to the day when [Jim] Leavitt, a native of St. Petersburg and a graduate of Dixie Hollins High School, was announced as the Bulls’ first coach. “I’m happy, but all it did was make me an average Conference USA coach,” Leavitt said. “In terms of salary, there are schools that pay a lot more and some that pay less.”
To put the Sharp End of the Tusk on “When Petrino took the head coaching job at Louisville on December 23, 2002, where was he in the grand scheme of coaches?”, in December 2002, Coach Petrino was 20 years into his profession with a first time shot at a head coaching position — all the while having confidence that he was among the elite college football coaches, but getting paid only a percentage more than assistant coaches at big time programs.
He had climbed the mountain only to get to the point where he could see the summit in the distance. He had further to go — Next Time.