The Inconvenient Timing of Petrino's Firing
This doesn’t happen very often in the college football world. A coach gets fired before the season is over, and the athletic director, who did the firing, steps out on a limb, and names another sitting coach as the apple of his university’s eye. Vince Tyra, UL’s Athletic Director actually mentioned coach Brohm by name, and fueled this fire by saying,
“I know all the ties-in that Jeff has with Louisville…”
“I’ve heard it all…”
“But that doesn’t mean he wants to be here.”
The University of Louisville was sick of losing. The Cardinals football team hasn’t just been losing, they’ve been getting crushed. They’ve lost by an average of nearly 29 points this season…and the last seven of those losses have been in consecutive games. That’s rough…that’s worse than Hazell-era rough. So I understand why Louisville thought now was the time to move on from Bobby Petrino. And that statement comes in complete isolation…it has little to do with their favorite son’s success just 2 hours and 48 minutes North of Louisville, in West Lafayette.
But dangit, the timing of Petrino’s historically-bad season is pretty lousy for all parties involved. Petrino is 119-56 during his career as a college football head coach. They were 8-5 last season, we got to see it up close to start the season. Big, physical linemen, athletes all-around and a reigning Heisman QB. Jackson graduated, but everyone didn’t. The program that Petrino had built was a mere shadow of itself this season. They got pushed around, ran out of gas and made countless mental errors that created holes for them in most contests this season. On top of that, they didn’t have much fight in them. They were as pitiful as Petrino a few years ago at the end of his time in Arkansas.
As we said on last night’s podcast, we dreaded Petrino’s firing, but honestly, I didn’t think he’d burn the place down this soon. As Aneesh said last night, Bobby Petrino eras simply do not end peaceably. UL in 2018 is no different. But the Cardinals already had a lot to deal with.
Their biggest booster has lost control of his own company, so one of their main lifelines is a bit dry right now. They’re currently fighting a legal battle with their ex-slimeball basketball coach. They’re also paying his buyout. They bought out Chris Mack’s $2.9 million contract from Xavier, and signed Mack to an over $4 million/year contract last April. And most recently (yesterday), they just agreed to pay Petrino his $14.5 million buyout so he wouldn’t come into work today. Financially speaking, this is an inconvenient time to hire a new football coach with a buyout of his own, and a substantial subsequent contract (probably around $5 million/yr for Brohm).
In God’s Country…
Purdue’s football recruiting is humming along. With the verbal commitment of another 4-star player last week, and at least one more potential signee who hasn’t made up his mind, Purdue’s 2019 class looks to potentially be a top-20 class. I don’t think that’s ever happened in West Lafayette. In fact, you have to go back to Cowboy Joe’s classes to see a class ranking in the top-30s in the nation. Most recently, Hope and Hazell classes landed in the 40s and 50s. Talent injections into a program, especially in positions of need can drastically change the fortunes of that team…good things are cooking.
Atop of potential, you see with your own eyes what has happened at Purdue. A bowl game and victory last season, three wins over ranked foes in 2018, sellouts, high season ticket sales and all-around fun Saturdays. Not only is the upside great, but the now is pretty good too.
Louisville’s phone call has simply come too soon.
I think all of the Purdue family fully expected Louisville to call Coach Brohm after four or five seasons in West Lafayette. At that point, he would have built something…not just laid foundational bricks. The transition might have been a bit easier, in that scenario. The South End Zone and updates to Ross-Ade would have been completed or nearing completion, the program would be much more than an also-ran, and the fanbase would have safely transitioned from a beaten down group, to a moderately confident fanbase with expectations of winning regularly and contending for a divisional title every few years.
The scenario we’re in now isn’t convenient, for anybody.
Brohm doesn’t consider himself a job-hopper, but leaving a job after just two seasons might make people think he picked up the perpetual wanderlust from his old boss, Bobby. Purdue’s coach hasn’t yet had the opportunity to meet the challenges that he thought were attainable just 22 months ago, when hired. Conference titles, a ranked team, and a consistently fearsome, beastly, yet handsome group of athletes wearing gold and black under his leadership, haven’t yet been obtained. Things are clearly moving that way. This program is going the right direction. But the timing of Louisville’s overtures are worse than inconvenient.
Hell, if we could get through this season without this stuff hanging over the program, it might be more beneficial than what’s happening now. Purdue has two opponents left on the schedule that they should be able to beat (in my opinion) to get to wins 6 and maybe 7…but that even feels like a stretch right now.
Based on today’s press conference, Coach Brohm cannot stare down the elephant on his shoulders by saying he’s not interested in working for his alma mater…nor can he tell his current employer that any concern for his departure is unwarranted. As we learned in the press conference, by his own admission, Coach Brohm had not yet addressed the team about this issue (as of 11:00a this morning). That’s a lot of stuff hanging over the heads of Purdue’s 18-22 year old student athletes, with Senior Day just five days away. Hopefully, Blough, Barron, Knox, Neal, Thieneman, Schopper and their teammates have laser-like focus on the upcoming Badger game (3:30 Saturday). To the untrained eye, it didn’t look the team had much last Saturday in Minneapolis.
We’ve been debating here at BS, if there is anything to read into, based on the press conference that occurred earlier today in West Lafayette. Brohm has always been an artist at saying many words without saying anything substantive. Today wasn’t any different. But today, the questions, for the most part, were centered upon his future at Purdue. Neither the media covering the event nor schleps like myself just watching, learned a thing or felt anymore confident after. There’s the rub- I actually am less confident about Jeff Brohm’s future at Purdue than I was after I heard of Petrino’s ouster…and that was like a punch in the gut.
The next few weeks, regardless of what Coach Brohm decides to do, will be a roller coaster fueled by conjecture and articles written by people that know no more about the story than I do. That ending to this season, after a sometimes-magical stretch, is worse than inconvenient, it’s simply disappointing.