OPINION — Like It Is

OPINION | WALLY HALL: Petrino jumped at the chance to be back


In the minutes that social media blew up with the news Bobby Petrino was coming back to Arkansas football as the offensive coordinator, the doom and gloom of the past season was replaced with Hog hopes for the future.

Judging by the reaction yours truly received on X, Facebook, emails, texts and phone calls, 90% of the fans believe it was a great hire.

There might have been an unhappy 10% or so, but they wouldn't have liked it if Nick Saban had been hired.

Let's get this out there: Petrino can't walk on water, heal leprosy or raise the Razorback program into a national power in a year or two.

What he does bring is a great offensive mind with much knowledge of defense, discipline and leadership. Basically he checks all the boxes of what Sam Pittman needed in an assistant coach who has also been a head coach and play-caller in the SEC.

Yes, he was fired at Arkansas, but it was nearly 12 years ago and Petrino has apologized.

When he agreed to speak to the Little Rock Touchdown Club on Sept. 9, 2019, he wasted no time in expressing his deep personal regret for the way he left a state that he and his family had come to love. But he didn't know how much he loved it until it was too late, or he thought at the time.

It meant enough to Petrino to get that message out that he paid his own expenses and accepted no speaking fee.

He needed to share his heart with the fans who he said were great to him and his family, and he said he had never been happier in his life than he was at Arkansas.

To err is human, to forgive divine and from the reaction that day and Tuesday -- when word spread like wildfire that details were being worked out that would bring him back to the land of Hogs -- it has been received with wild approval.

If he wasn't Pittman's first choice, it doesn't matter. He's going to be the right-hand man that every head coach needs.

There may not be a better good cop-bad cop duo in college football.

Pittman loves his players one way, Petrino loves his another way and one of those ways is demanding they be the best they can be.

The two are hitting the recruiting trail together this week, and that speaks volumes of Pittman's acceptance and commitment.

There may be some who are equal to Petrino in organizational skills, but none better. Uniformity is huge with him because it goes hand-in-hand with teamwork.

Minutes before his first game as Arkansas' head coach, he noticed that Dr. Jack VanderSchilden, noted orthopedic surgeon and part of the Razorback medical team, was wearing his personal loafers.

Petrino shouted over the noise of the locker room, "Someone get that doctor a pair of our team shoes."

That's an eye for detail.

In his four seasons in Fayetteville, Petrino went 5-7, 8-3, 10-3 and 11-2. That's a powerful trend that hasn't been seen in the dozen years he's been gone.

He wants to help put Arkansas back on the national scene and he proved that by accepting a contract that calls for him to make $350,000 for his first three months through February 2024, followed by $1.5 million in his first season and then $1.6 million in his second season.

If he had chosen to take the A&M buyout, he would have gotten $2.6 million to take a year off.

His contract doesn't put him in the top 10 highest-paid coordinators in the nation.

Petrino, 62, jumped at the chance to come back to Arkansas, and sure there are those around the country who will scoff, but that just goes with the territory.

It was a hire that inspired hope for the future of the Razorbacks' football program. Just don't expect miracles, but Hog fans can call Petrino the same thing his five grandchildren call him, "Coach."