If breaking news reports are to be believed, the wild, wild S.E.C. West is about to get wild, wild wilder: Bobby Petrino is Fayetteville-bound. (No, not Fayetteville, Georgia, smart guy . . . Fayetteville, Arkansas.)
A few cursory initial thoughts:
- Coach Petrino reportedly phoned in his resignation to the Atlanta Falcons. I am torn between the obvious joke ("Coach Petrino appears to have phoned in his entire N.F.L. coaching career!") and the observation that this guy is about as smarmy a self-interested weasel as you are liable to find anywhere. He left Louisville in the lurch when he bolted for the City Too Busy to Hate, then he cuts and runs before the Falcons' season is even done. (Officially, I mean. Technically, the Falcons' season has been done since August. Or 1966. Really, it's all in how you look at it.)
- It could have been worse, of course. Coach Petrino could have said in a radio interview that he would welcome the opportunity to take the Washington Huskies job, regardless of whether he was available, 'cause that would have been bad.
- How big a target does this guy have on his back from day one? Over the course of the last year, the Razorback fan base has developed such a reputation that Kentucky basketball fans look at the Arkansas faithful and say, "Those guys take this just a little too far!" Coach Petrino's honeymoon will be over by his third loss, if not before. Add to that the fact that the man he replaced (Houston Nutt) and the man he would have replaced had that man been fired (Tommy Tuberville) both coach in the Hogs' division, and it becomes clear that a lot of folks are going to be gunning for Coach Petrino. Games against Kentucky aren't liable to be a picnic for the former U. of L. coach, either.
- Is there even an argument that the locus of head coaching talent in college football lies outside the Southeastern Conference? In 2008, the league's leaders will include Phillip Fulmer, Urban Meyer, Houston Nutt, Bobby Petrino, Mark Richt, Nick Saban, Steve Spurrier, Tommy Tuberville, and (unless you doubt his latest unequivocal statement that he intends to honor the contract he just signed) Les Miles. Reasonable fans can debate how good some of those coaches really are, but the success each of them has enjoyed cannot be gainsaid. Even after the recent attainments managed by Rich Brooks, Sylvester Croom, and Bobby Johnson, they continue to toil in relative obscurity, due not to a lack of ability but to the achievements of their coevals.
- If the Falcons are about to rearrange their coaching staff again, where does that leave former Georgia defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder? It's looking more and more like Coach VanGorder's decision to leave the Classic City ranks right up there with McLean Stevenson's decision to leave "M*A*S*H" among the worst career moves in history.