Bobby Petrino had a tumultuous season in 2023 as offensive coordinator of the Texas A&M Aggies. With the team losing starting quarterback Conner Weigman early in the season, the team finished 7-5. And it wasn’t Petrino’s fault as former Aggies head coach Jimbo Fisher was hard-pressed to give full control of the offense as promised to Petrino. And it showed.
While the Aggies have moved on with new head coach Mike Elko, so has Petrino after getting a call from Arkansas head coach Sam Pittman to return to Fayetteville as the team’s offensive coordinator. Petrino accepted.
This came as a shock to many across the country but was a welcomed addition for Razorback nation who remember the run that Petrino was on before his tumultuous firing as their head coach in April of 2012.
Petrino was the head coach of the Razorbacks from 2008-2011 and had turned the Hogs into an SEC powerhouse ready to rival at that time top SEC contender Alabama Crimson Tide and head coach Nick Saban.
The program had only seen two 10-plus win seasons since 1989 before Petrino arrived in 2008. Within four years, Petrino matched that feat having two 10-plus win seasons on his own in back-to-back years in 2010 and 2011 with some high-powered offenses led by quarterbacks Tyler Wilson and Ryan Mallett.
Since Petrino’s exit, the Hogs have fallen on hard times and have yet to repeat a 10-win season. Current head coach Sam Pittman is entering his fifth season as Athletic Director Hunter Yurachek announced Pittman’s return before the conclusion of the 2023 season. An offense line coach by background, Pittman’s best season was in 2021 when the Hogs went 9-4. He’s coming off of a 4-8 2023 campaign and holds a 48%-win percentage in his four years with the Hogs. This hasn’t left much optimism for a fan base that’s in need of it.
Here is why the hiring of Bobby Petrino in Fayetteville will change everything.
What the Bobby Petrino hire as offensive coordinator means for Arkansas
Petrino’s full potential will be unlocked – During his time in 2023 in College Station as offensive coordinator of the Aggies, Petrino was handcuffed with the offense. According to Petrino’s statements in a press conference that is analyzed and shown on a Lockedon Razorbacks episode with host John Nabors on his time in College Station, Petrino said, “When I took the job at A&M, Jimbo (Fisher) wanted to keep the same terminology and call things the same way they did. It was hard.” Don’t expect this to be the case in Fayetteville as Petrino is praised by many, and they’ve seen what he can do first-hand during his previous tenure. Petrino’s offenses were never worse than fourth in the SEC during his time in Fayetteville, even in his first season when the team went 5-7. By the third and fourth years, the Hogs offense finished 2nd and 1st in the SEC respectively.
Positivity returns to Fayetteville – After the return of Sam Pittman for a fifth season was announced, things went south the next week or so for the Razorbacks and their fans both on-and-off the field. On the field, the Hogs had a disappointing loss in their last game of the regular season against their upstate rival Missouri Tigers 48-14 at home. Personal foul penalties and a lack of discipline further concerned Razorback fans beyond the scoreboard. As analyzed on Lockedon Razorbacks by John Nabors, Sam Pittman’s post-game remarks when asked about how the Hogs could rebound for the 2024 season heightened concern even more-so when Pittman’s response completely puzzled and only asked for the next question. Nabors sounds off on this on this episode of the podcast series. These comments, combined with the team’s on-field effort; it’s no wonder fans were concerned. The Petrino hired changed that with the drop of a dime. And its oddly overwhelming positivity exuding suddenly out of Fayetteville less than a week after the thrashing by the Tigers.
Sam Pittman’s job may be saved – More than likely, if Pittman can have eight wins or more in 2024, it’ll save his job in Fayetteville. With Petrino calling the plays and running the offense, that should be more than doable. The hiring of Petrino can be seen as a “last-ditch effort” for Petrino, but he should be commended for it as you’ve got to be really humble to bring in someone under you that had much more success as a prior head coach of the team.
Arkansas has two head coaches – The dynamic here is interesting due to Petrino’s previous success. And during his time in Fayetteville when Petrino was head coach, while he had a hand in recruiting on the defensive side of the ball, other than that Petrino was all offense and trusted his defensive staff to do the rest. Fast forward to 2023, this is really no different even though Petrino is only the offensive coordinator and not the head coach. He’ll have full control of on and off-field offensive functions, and if anything, not being the head coach for Petrino may help Razorback nation even more-so as 100 percent of Petrino’s time will be on offense. And the recruiting aspect outside of it he won’t even have to worry about it for defense.
If all holds true, Hog nation could see the beginning of a dynasty that in 2010 never got the chance to fully emerge after Petrino was fired after the 2011 season. And with Petrino’s emotional introductory press conference, don’t look for the Fayetteville legend to go anywhere anytime soon.