April 21, 2024

Bobby Petrino has agreed to become the next offensive coordinator at Arkansas, and the two sides are finalizing the deal, sources told ESPN on Tuesday.

The former Razorbacks head coach is slated to be on campus in Fayetteville on Wednesday.

Petrino spent this season as the Texas A&M offensive coordinator but wasn’t retained by new coach Mike Elko after Jimbo Fisher was fired earlier this month. The Aggies defeated the Razorbacks 34-22 on Sept. 30.

Petrino’s return would mark a spectacular full-circle moment, as he left Arkansas in 2012 after being fired in the wake of a scandal that saw him hire his lover and mislead his bosses about their relationship. That all came to light after a motorcycle accident, and the story rocked the college sports world and ended Petrino’s career at Arkansas after he’d gone 21-5 the previous two seasons.

The hiring of Petrino is expected to require presidential approval, as he was fired for cause during his last stint there. In the school’s termination policy, it states that “an employee who has been dismissed for cause, or who has been designated by their campus or division as not eligible for re-hire shall not be eligible for reemployment within any of the University of Arkansas System’s campuses, units or divisions.”

Petrino was head coach at FCS Missouri State before taking the Texas A&M job, and Missouri State almost beat the Razorbacks during the 2022 season in Fayetteville. Arkansas rallied in the fourth quarter for a 38-27 win.

Petrino, 62, had been seriously considered by school officials leading up to the hire, and sources told ESPN that he had indicated in the recruiting space that he was in the mix for an SEC coordinator job.

Earlier this month, Arkansas elected to bring back head coach Sam Pittman amid a 4-7 season that ended with a loss to Missouri last week.

Over the past two decades, Petrino has developed a dual reputation as one of the sport’s most gifted playcallers and someone who has found controversy at nearly every stop. Since his firing at Arkansas, and in addition to Missouri State, he has worked at Western Kentucky and Louisville.

Petrino’s stay with the Aggies proved benign, as sources said he avoided staff strife and the Texas A&M offense played well, finishing No. 25 nationally in scoring.

Arkansas fired offensive coordinator Dan Enos in October during a puzzling season in which Pittman’s name continued to surface on lists of coaches on the hot seat.

The school would have owed Pittman more than $16 million, and athletic director Hunter Yurachek said in a statement that it wasn’t the “season that any of us anticipated.”

The allure of Petrino the tactician is undeniable. He coached Lamar Jackson in his Heisman Trophy-winning season in 2016 with the Cardinals, and has long been regarded as a high-end playcaller, as his final two seasons at Arkansas ended in trips to the Sugar Bowl and Cotton Bowl.

Petrino’s off-field issues outside of his spiral at the end of his Arkansas tenure included a secret meeting with Auburn officials in 2003 that backfired when it was revealed publicly because coach Tommy Tuberville still had his job. Petrino quit his NFL head-coaching job with the Atlanta Falcons after 13 games to take the Arkansas job and left a note for the players in the locker room.

After his stint at Missouri State, he left for the offensive coordinator job at UNLV, only to leave for Texas A&M a few weeks later.

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