The second Bobby Petrino era at Louisville won’t make it to the end of year five. U of L announced Sunday that with two games still to play in the 2018 season, the Cardinal head coach has been relieved of his duties, effective immediately.
“We want to thank Bobby for guiding our football program to some of the better seasons we have had historically at UofL during his two separate tenures here,” Vice President and Director of Athletics Vince Tyra said in a release. “However, at this time we feel the program needs different leadership and we owe it to our student-athletes and fans to get this turned around.
“I did not have the confidence that it was going to happen next season without a change and it needs to start happening now. We expect to determine a new head coach soon to restore our football program to national prominence.”
Petrino had been in the midst of easily his worst season as a head coach. Friday night’s 54-23 loss at Syracuse was just the latest in a season-long string of embarrassments for Louisville. The Cardinals currently stand at 2-8 overall and 0-7 in the ACC, with all but one of their defeats coming by 18 points or more. For the first time in program history, U of L has allowed five different opponents to score at least 50 points against them.
The fall from grace was as abrupt as it was steep for Petrino. In his eight previous seasons with the Cardinals, Petrino had never failed to win fewer than eight games. He was 41-9 in his first stint with the Cards, leading the team to one-loss seasons and a final national ranking of No. 6 in both 2004 and 2006. A U of L team has never finished a season higher in the AP poll.
Things didn’t go as swimmingly in round two for Petrino. Though Louisville experienced its fair share of positive moments from 2014-17, the team never breached the 10-win mark in a season, even with Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson commanding the offense full-time in 2016 and 2017. A 9-1 start in 2016 that had U of L in the thick of the College Football Playoff discussion ended with three consecutive losses, including an embarrassing home defeat at the hands of arch-rival Kentucky that wound up costing Louisville a trip to the Orange Bowl. A Jackson-led 2017 team that began the year ranked No. 16 and faced the most manageable schedule of Petrino’s second tenure lost five games, leading to some unrest around the program.
That unrest came to an insuppressible head over the past 11 weeks, forcing U of L athletic director Vince Tyra to make a move with two games still to play.
All questions now surround the next step. Louisville fans have focused their attention so squarely on Jeff Brohm, that anything else — at least at this moment in time — would feel like a disappointment.
Whether it’s Brohm, the ghost of Bill Walsh or anybody else, this was still a move that had to be made. Recruiting has become a disaster, current players are frequently voicing their displeasure on social media, two players who could have been key pieces for the future elected to jump ship with four games to play, and Petrino provided no tangible sign that he had a plan to turn any of this around.
Life in the ACC is different than life in the Big East or Conference USA. The pit of irrelevancy is deeper and darker now than it was 10 years ago, and it’s much tougher to claw and climb your way out of.
That climbing process begins now.