Louisville's Dark Knight Returns: Bobby Petrino, a Case Study in PR Management

Andy Lyons

Hiring Bobby Petrino is and was a tricky situation. If we’re being honest, removing your fan bias is as easy as removing that dunking cardinal bird tattoo on your lower back, but let’s try for the sake of argument.

Bobby Petrino was a combination of black widow and gold digger to college, and for a brief stint, pro football. He would come into a program as head coach, elevate the status of the program along with himself, and then exit the situation while leaving a crater behind him (see exhibit A: all of his head coaching stops excluding WKU). Yeah, while he was arm in arm with you, you were the alpha male. Problem is, while he was not by your side he was flirting for free drinks at the sleazy but somehow most respected bar in the country (SEC).

It was questioned which program would be crazy enough to take on Petrino after his multiple offenses. In the national circuit of sports reporting, I don’t believe the idea was even entertained that he would be able to return to a program he had previously burned.

But here we are, reunited with "Ole 41-9" to a largely excited and happy fanbase (of which I count myself among for the record). Due to Bobby's well known and public transgressions, how did we end up here? Tom Jay Mother Fucking Bilas Jurich is the answer. Jurich knew what he was getting into by hiring Bobby, and his moves (and by extensions, Bobby’s) have reflected the "New Bobby" image they are promoting.

Moves and Counter Moves

Bobby Petrino had a public and sordid affair at Arkansas, Jurich introduces Becky Petrino at the press conference and explains their repaired marriage. Translation: Becky can forgive Bobby, so can you.

Bobby Petrino flirted with other schools and programs at his many different stops, Jurich rehires him. Translation: I can forgive Bobby, so can you.

Bobby Petrino's perception was that he ruled with an iron fist and was harsh on his players, Jurich consults with over 100 former players of Bobby’s who all support the hire. Translation: His former players overwhelmingly support him, and so should you.

Bobby Petrino excited and energized the fanbase, brought unprecedented heights to the program all while making us the cool kid stuck in the CUSA or Big East, Jurich points out the support from the fans who wanted Bobby back. Translation: You remember WVU ’06? We’re bringing that back, but this time it is FSU.

Now, of course this is not a "Jurich controls the media" situation, every entity of elevated public standing has a PR program in place (or at least should). Just so happens that Jurich and those in the athletic department are exceptionally adept at using the media as opposed to controlling the media, which of course is the very nature of public relations. So feel free to ignore the inane subterfuge from our enthusiastic archrivals to the east.

What this is, is a master class in PR management. While easy to see for those paying attention, it is a strategy proven effective by the reception and excitement around Louisville right now. I’ve already planned the playlist and menu for the first tailgate. It’s only June. Those who saw already know, those who didn’t will see soon enough. Bobby Petrino is Louisville’s coach and it just feels right.

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