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McCollum's Column: Thoughts on the 'changed' Bobby Petrino

Posted: January 10, 2014 - 6:34pm

Bobby Petrino being a changed man is being met with almost as much skepticism as Dennis Rodman being a diplomat.

After being pulled out of the ditch he ran himself and the Arkansas program into, Petrino is now headed for his second tour of duty at the University of Louisville.

He comes with a lot of baggage and minus credibility equity.

If he’s sincere and is trying to remake himself into a great teacher for student-athletes instead of a great offensive mind and quarterback teacher, you can make the argument that he deserves a chance.

But this is not just his second chance. Those who followed his career have lost count.

What is not disputed is he knows how to push players to win football games and he knows his X’s and O’s on the offensive side of the ball.

But his reputation, supported by solid evidence, is one of being ethically, morally and personality challenged.

We’ll believe it when we see it beyond the smiles and statements at a press conference when everyone almost always says the right things.

Words, particularly in Petrino’s case, are cheap. Actions, and actions over a long period, will show the true colors and whether the coach can remove his tainted perception.

He will be under more pressure and scrutiny than ever.

He’ll be watched by the media.

He’ll be watched by his detractors.

He’ll be watched by fans or rival schools.

He’ll be watched by Louisville fans as well as officials.

When he hires someone or has an assistant, particularly female, that will be examined in detail.

People will be watching at restaurants and other establishments.

If he takes a motorcycle ride, there could be helicopters and cars and papparazzi.

You know that public service announcement about drunk driving in which they say the cops will be watching you before you know you are being watched? It will probably be like that.

Many will be waiting for the slightest slipup. Many will accept the challenge to cast a spotlight on new warts and illuminate any feet-of-clay sightings.

And Petrino, as he leads a team into Atlantic Coast Conference play, has to prove he’s a changed man on matters other than off-the-field.

Has he learned that defense is an essential element of football at the championship level and you can’t go into a season thinking you can outscore everyone? Has he learned that you have to put many of your best athletes on defense?

There is a record of attrition, discipline issues and deterioration of programs after he left.

His recruiting ability, especially over the long term, is extremely suspect, and programs he has managed have suffered after a couple of years.

He’s got his chance. He’s working for one of the people, athletic director Tom Jurich, he has burned the most. And Jurich, one of the most respected AD’s in the country, has put his reputation on the line.

Most folks reaction to the hire is, “We’ll see.”

This is best put into perspective some of the initial reporting of the situation came several days ago from the “Rock City Times,” a popular local site famous for its satire and carrying phantom news stories from the ridiculous to the sublime.

In its efforts at satire, the “Rock City Times,” nailed it and actually produced a scoop.

Yep. The burden of proof is on Petrino.

(Sports columnist David McCollum can be reached at 501-505-1235 or david.mccollum@thecabin.net or follow him on twitter @dmaclcd)

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