Guess who’s coming to town?
Bobby Petrino will return to the Georgia Dome as a coach for the first time on Saturday since abandoning the Falcons on Dec. 11, 2007. Petrino’s Western Kentucky Hilltoppers will play Georgia State at the Dome where he briefly — and some fans would say regrettably — once walked.
Much has happened to Petrino since that fateful night and even nearly six years later, he wasn’t in the mood on Monday to talk about any of it.
“It was a long time ago I was there,” he said. “I’ve been through many, many seasons after that. My focus is truly on trying to help this team get better each day, each week.”
Petrino deflected three questions during a session with the media: Did he regret taking the job with the Falcons? Did he regret how he left? How has he changed since then? Each question was answered with versions of the same “focused on Western Kentucky” answer.
Of course, those answers were more illuminating than what occurred that December night and since.
A recap: The Falcons were 3-9 and without quarterback Michael Vick. Rumors were swirling that Petrino was going to leave after the season.
On Monday, Dec. 10, the Falcons were scheduled to play New Orleans and knowing he was going to be asked about Petrino’s future, Falcons owner Arthur Blank asked his coach if he was going to return. Petrino said he was going nowhere. With that reassurance, Blank went on Monday Night Football to state that Petrino would return for the next season.
A day and a loss to the Saints later, Petrino was gone, leaving a note for the players in the locker room. Other than a few opaque quotes, he hasn’t spoken with any detail about his time in Atlanta.
Petrino didn’t walk away from his $24-million contract with the Falcons without a job. He left to accept a job at Arkansas, where he led the Razorbacks to a 34-17 record in four seasons, including a trip to the Sugar Bowl.
But he also hired Jessica Dorrell, a former Razorbacks volleyball player, for a recruiting position. They had an affair, which infamously began to become public when Petrino ran his motorcycle, with Dorrell on the back, into a ditch.
After a series of denials and conflicting quotes about the incident, Petrino was fired, via letter, on April 11, 2012.
He was hired by Western Kentucky on Dec. 10, 2012, the five-year anniversary of Blank’s original public embarrassment.