It’s now year two in Bobby Petrino’s second tenure with the Louisville Cardinals. His Louisville career bookends a head-coaching career that’s displayed cowardice and scandal, but also success.
Petrino’s first run with the Cards took Louisville to 11- and 12-win seasons. He left for the Atlanta Falcons, and then passively resigned via four-line laminated note cards after the Falcons started 3-10 in 2006. He went to the Arkansas Razorbacks for half of what Atlanta was paying, and won the 2012 Cotton Bowl. But then there was the motorcycle accident with his 25 year-old mistress on board, and there was rock bottom.
Petrino began his football atonement with the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers in 2013, and was rehired by Louisville the following year. Once having seen the Cards from Conference USA to the Big East, Petrino found himself in doubly familiar territory, maneuvering Louisville through another conference upgrade into the ACC.
Although Petrino may not be where he expected himself to be in 2015, the Cardinals have finally arrived in the Power 5. Since 1998, Louisville track record in appointing coaches has been mostly on point — posting five 10-plus win seasons between John L. Smith, Charlie Strong and yes, Petrino.
Now once again in an arguably tougher conference, can Petrino power through the Power 5? More importantly, has Louisville finally built a program that’s impressive enough to keep him?
This will be a double-edged sword of motivation coming into 2015. Petrino seeks to rebuild his career by adding accolades, while Louisville looks to improve upon their modern football reputation. This may be the most symbiotic relationship in all of college football, but Louisville should want to keep it that way — the ceiling of this relationship is the College Football Playoff.
Whether the Cardinals will reach their potential depends whether or not Petrino can finish what he started.