For about a week, word was circulating around the media that Louisville was about to have a “huge announcement” that would be important to the future of the athletics program. Sources speculated that it was anything from the possible building of a new basketball arena to a new set of hair plugs for Coach Pitino. However today we found out the mystery news when it was announced that Louisville has reupped its football coach with a wandering eye, Bobby Petrino for the next ten years with a total deal that would be worth approximately 25 million dollars.
The announcement has been hailed by folks from Louisville (my future home) as a pronouncement that Louisville is now one of the “major college football programs in the country.” While I may quibble with that contention (as will be stated in just a minute), one has to be quite staggered by the deal. Petrino’s deal means that he immediately will be paid 1.6 million dollars this season and that will go up to 2 million in 2010 and 2.6 million in 2014. This deal likely makes Petrino one of the ten highest paid football coaches in the land, all the while at a program whose total stadium capacity is 42,000, thus severely limiting revenue.
So what to make of the deal. Well three things are clear to me. First, Louisville has invested their entire future on the notion that Bobby Petrino can lead them to the promised land. Petrino has been sought after by Auburn, the Oakland Raiders and LSU and is clearly considered one of the best coaches in the country. This deal suggests that the Ville not only believes the hype but is willing to invest in it.
Second, the Ville believes that this deal signifies their arrival as a top tier program….I would hold off on that conclusion for a bit. While things are set up for Petrino to be quite successful, an exciting team in a relatively weak conference that nevertheless has a BCS bid, at this point no one is including the Cards in the same breath as Notre Dame or Texas. One victory over Florida St in a monsoon and a shootout win over Boise St does not signify a national power. And just because you pay like a top program does not mean that you are a top program. Wins determine that and the Ville still has to make some showings to make a national splash.
Finally, this signing does once again put the heat on the University of Kentucky and especially Rich Brooks. No matter how people want to spin it, the Louisville football program has left the Kentucky program in the dust. While the Ville’s win total is surely inflated due to their weaker conference, no one can reasonably argue that it is still not a better overall situation than Kentucky and that if the same schedule was played, Louisville would not do better. At this point, the Ville is coached by one of the hottest names in the profession, who has now been locked down for the forseeable future. The Cats are coached by a man that virtually no one nationally even knows is still in the profession. The Cats have not been relevant since the average college football fan snickered at how fat our quarterback was, and this move only makes the hill to climb that much steeper.