Evidence against Petrino points to need for a change

Coach Bobby Petrino laments a late play ball that went bad last Saturday but said Louisville will be ready Friday against Georgia Tech. (Louisville Athletics photo)
Coach Bobby Petrino laments a late play ball that went bad last Saturday but said Louisville will be ready Friday against Georgia Tech. (Louisville Athletics photo)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (KT) - I am assuming that very shortly after Kentucky's football team humiliates Louisville on its home field two days after Thanksgiving, U of L coach Bobby Petrino will be summoned for a heart-to-heart talk with his boss, Athletics Director Vince Tyra.

I am also assuming that two of the things Tyra will ask Petrino are: (1) How did things go off the tracks so badly? and (2) What are you going to do to fix it?

Actually, Tyra may not even have to ask those questions because his mind might be made up, if it isn't already, and the meeting only a courteous formality, considering it's too late for this season to be rescued and there doesn't appear to be any answers in the near future either.

All in all, it wouldn't be a bad idea for Tyra to send some of his employees through the crowd during the Cardinals' last two home games passing the hat for donations to Petrino's obscenely high and unwarranted $14 million buyout that is looking like former AD Tom Jurich's revenge.

I have been reluctant to pile on, but after Louisville's listless performance in Saturday's 77-16 debacle at No. 2 Clemson, on top of all the other blowout defeats, off-the-field issues and disintegrating recruiting, it's difficult to see how Petrino can justify keeping his job. Fans are rebelling, the players are playing like even THEY want a coaching change too and the numbers this team has compiled are highly incriminating.

The Cards are 2-7 overall, winless in the Atlantic Coast Conference and have lost six straight. By the time Tyra has to announce a verdict on Petrino's future it's very likely those numbers will be 2-10, 0-8 and nine consecutive losses.

Heading into Friday night's game at Syracuse (No. 13 AP, No. 19 CFP), UofL has given up 133 points in its last two games and the Orange are averaging 43. Syracuse is unbeaten in the Carrier Dome and is an early 21-point favorite. Wise bettors will take the Orange.

The prospects for a win as the season winds down look dim. After Friday, the Cards will host No. 23 NC State (6-2) on Nov. 17 and then No. 11 UK.

The Cards and have allowed 50 points or more in four games for the first time in school history and the 61-point drubbing at Clemson was their third-worst defeat ever -- Vanderbilt won 68-0 in 1941 and Murray State Teachers College walloped U of L, 105-0, in 1932.

Some perspective on Clemson's rout - the most its basketball team has scored against Louisville in seven meetings is 75.

The Cards' defense put up no resistance against the Tigers, whose average of 11.6 points per play broke their school record of 11.2 set in 1903 when their coach was John Heisman, better known these days for his namesake trophy. For you non-math majors, that means Clemson averaged a first down every time the ball was snapped.

"We were never really in it," Petrino said. "They were kind of doing whatever they wanted to do."

Just like most of Louisville's other opponents this season.

U of L has allowed 367 points. Unless the Cards give up less than 63 in the last three games -- and their defense would have to improve by an average of more than 20 points to do that -- they'll set a school record for points allowed in a season. The mark is 429 points in 1985.

While nobody expected the extent of the calamity this season has been, a downturn shouldn't have come as a surprise because Petrino's program had been disintegrating before now. Even with the nation's best player for two years in quarterback Lamar Jackson, Louisville wasn't able to distinguish itself.

After going 7-1 in the ACC in 2016 the Cards finished the season 0-3. Petrino is 10-15 overall since then, 6-15 against Power 5 conference schools and 0-8 vs. ranked teams, with an average margin of defeat by 25.5 points. In his four-plus seasons, he is 1-12 against ranked teams and he has now lost seven in a row against Power 5 clubs.

Petrino has also fumbled in recruiting. UofL's 2019 class ranks 70th and may fall further after another prospect, defensive end Kristian Varner, decommitted Monday. UofL is now down to 10 commitments and has only one official visit scheduled.

Undoubtedly the recruiting has been damaged not only by the Cards' terrible season, but also the uncertainty surrounding Petrino's future. No prospect is going to commit until the coach's fate is known.

In a radio interview on 790KRD last week Tyra said he wants to make a decision on a coaching change before Dec. 19.

“Yes, I think you have to,” Tyra said.

No, a decision has to come before that. There's no reason to wait that long, and all the evidence points to it being time for a change.

Russ Brown, a former sportswriter for The Courier-Journal and USA Today, covers University of Louisville sports and college basketball and football for Kentucky Today. He can be contacted at  


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