With rumors swirling that Louisville could hire Bobby Petrino to replace Charlie Strong as head coach -- Petrino interviewed with U of L athletic director Tom Jurich and is one of three finalists for the job, reports SB Nation's Mike Rutherford -- Western Kentucky is preparing its backup plan. To make up for the loss of their coach, the Hilltoppers interviewed offensive coordinator Jeff Brohm on Tuesday, according to Dan Wolken of USA Today.
The possibility of Petrino returning to Louisville, where he coached from 2003 to '06 before leaving on bad terms for the NFL, is apparently not as farfetched as it might seem. Rutherford also reports that Jurich is "very, very interested" in Petrino and that Jurich "personally forgave Petrino a long time ago."
Scott Roussel offers some insights from coaching circles:
Have heard from a number of sources in KY & others in the profession…strong belief Bobby P to Louisville is real possibility— FootballScoop Staff (@footballscoop) January 7, 2014
What I’m told is Jurich knew this was a possibility but tried to hit a HR w another candidate or two first. Donors pressed this & Jurich...— FootballScoop Staff (@footballscoop) January 7, 2014
Jurich is weighing it vs going a different direction. Real possibility donors win here is what I’m hearing.— FootballScoop Staff (@footballscoop) January 7, 2014
Petrino has a strong desire to return to the scene of his first head coaching job, per the Louisville Courier-Journal's Adam Himmelsbach. The coach left Louisville after signing a 10-year contract, joining the Atlanta Falcons for most of a season before leaving for Arkansas, where he was fired for off-field behavior. Petrino resurfaced at WKU after a year off.
Himmelsbach spoke to Petrino's father, Bobby Sr., who says that his son is enthusiastic about the Cardinals job:
"He told me this weekend he would like the opportunity to coach at Louisville again," Bob Sr. said by telephone on Monday. "He said that he's been everywhere, the NFL and everywhere else, and he said probably the biggest mistake he'd ever made as a coach was leaving Louisville."
"I know Tom Jurich pretty well, and he's a good man," Bob Sr. said. "He works very hard. I just hope he can forgive my son. "I don't think there's any other place in the world where (Bobby) can do the things he can do in Louisville," Bob Sr. said. "I don't think there's any question, if he was offered this job, he'd take it."
Western Kentucky hasn't offered comment on the reports, but WDBR-TV's Eric Crawford and Cardinal Authority's Jody Demling are reporting a Louisville Athletic Board meeting set for 10 a.m. local time on Thursday.
If Petrino does leave the Hilltoppers for his old stomping ground, Brohm would be a sensible replacement. He spent four years under Petrino at Louisville in the early 2000s and stayed on with the Cardinals after the head coach left, rising from quarterbacks coach to offensive coordinator. He also served as OC at UAB in 2012, and his combination of experience and familiarity with WKU would make for an easy transition.
When SB Nation's Steven Godfrey profiled Petrino last March, Western Kentucky athletic director Todd Stewart admitted that losing the head coach in a short amount of time was possible:
"We want him here for a long time, obviously, but I'm not naive to the turnover. This was Willie Taggart's alma mater and he only stayed here three years. Certainly change is a possibility but I don't want to have to replace a head coach every year. I think continuity is important and that's what we're striving for."
If Petrino leaves, at least one Class of 2014 Western Kentucky commit has full faith in Brohm as a replacement:
Grew up with Petrino at Louisville, fell in love with him! He's a great Coach. I'm confident Coach Brohm will get the job if he does leaves!— Robert Jones (@Rob_jones10) January 7, 2014
But one local icon remains quite skeptical.
I asked Rick Pitino tonight about the possibility of Bobby Petrino returning to UofL. His response, "I highly doubt that will happen."— Kent Spencer (@WHAS11Kent) January 8, 2014