Nunnsense: Is Bobby Petrino Underpaid?

Photo: Jeffrey M. Nunn

I heard the news as announced on the 93.9 ESPN radio show, Mid-day with Marques Maybin by guest host Steve Rummage on Thursday, April 14th, that Bobby Petrino received a contract extension running through the 2023 season. To me, the duration of the contract didn’t matter because Bobby said that this was his ” destination job” so he is not going anywhere.

I know, I know. He left us in the middle of the night, he bailed on the Atlanta Falcons after 13 games and left Western Kentucky University after only 13 months even though he said at his WKU introductory press conference that hoped his tenure there “can be as long as possible.”  I hear all of your concerns and based on his previous history, I would be lying if I said it wasn’t in the back of my mind just a little bit. I also remember that just before he left Louisville, he pledged a large sum of money to Kosair Childrens Hospital. Most people don’t know that he fulfilled that pledge even though he had moved to Atlanta. He has always had a love for this city and especially Kosair hospital.

However, The WKU job was all part of a plan to replace Charlie Strong when he left by Athletic Director, Tom Jurich (or so I believe). Bobby and Tom worked out their differences and became friends again. Tom put in a good word to WKU athletic director and vouched for Bobby that he was a changed man. WKU offered him a deal that basically had no risk on their side of the contract. After Bobby was hired by WKU, I heard the rumors that Bobby would replace Charlie Strong when Charlie left Louisville. I also heard that Charlie was going to leave whenever Teddy Bridgewater left. Most believed that Teddy would stay for his senior year and that Teddy and Charlie would bring us into our inaugural year of ACC play. But after a great junior season, it appeared Teddy would be a top 5 draft pick and Texas came throwing cash at Charlie. I can’t blame either of them for leaving and I am thankful for everything they have done for our program. Even though it was a year earlier than planned, it was time to bring Bobby back home.

I don’t know what all of you believe but I truly believe people can change. I believe Bobby has changed and I had a small encounter with him that helped confirm my belief that he had changed. In, January of 2014 my son who was 10 weeks old had to be hospitalized at Kosairs Children’s hospital. I didn’t spend much time away from his bedside but I did run downstairs to get a bite to eat. On my way back up, I shared an elevator with Bobby Petrino and Rocco Gasparro (assistant sports information director). I had a nice conversation with them and Bobby was nothing like what I heard he was like. I had heard he was rude and didn’t want to be bothered. He was just the opposite. Very friendly and engaging. Although this conversation lasted only a few minutes, it was a sign to me that he had indeed changed for the better. I also knew people who worked in the athletic office during the ’03 -’06 seasons who said that he talked down to them and it was not fun to be around him at work. Those same people say now in his second tenure with Louisville that he is very friendly, he has taken the time to get to know the people in the office and that he is always pleasant.

Some of you will bring up the morality issues that occurred during his time as the Arkansas head football coach as an indication of what type of man he is. While I agree that those issues are something that bother me as a married man, I am not the ultimate judge. If his wife can forgive him then who am I to hold those transgressions against him. He didn’t hurt or betray me. That type of forgiveness can only be given by his wife and God. Those issues are between those three and do not involve me at all.

Because I am a season ticket holder and a Cardinal Athletic Fund donor, my concerns are only the job Bobby Petrino does as a head coach at Louisville. Don’t confuse that statement by saying I only care about wins and losses. I do care about those but as a coach he also has responsibilities in the community, in the classroom and to be held to the same moral contract as everyone at the University of Louisville. If Bobby does have morality issues again, I would have no problem saying he must go. I feel the same way if he doesn’t get it done on the field or in the classroom. U of L even put a “Termination for Just Cause”  in section 7 of his contract…. “Just Cause termination” would include “disparaging media publicity in material nature that damages the good name and reputation of Employer or University,” the contracts states, “if such publicity is caused by Employee’s willful misconduct that could objectively be anticipated to bring (Petrino and U of L) into public disrepute or scandal, or which tends greatly to offend the public.” In the classroom his team is meeting the APR and the football team graduation rate is acceptable. I could write a very long piece on The Petrino Family Foundation and how it has impacted this community. He is fulfilling all of his obligations as a head coach at a very elite level.

Now here we are going into year 3 of Bobby 2.0 and he gets a two-year contract extension along with a raise. We have had no off the field problems and nothing but success on the field. The future of this program is very very bright. So is now the time to reward Bobby? In this chart below from USA Today, Petrino had the 32nd best salary. I believe if you have a top 25 program your coach should be paid in the top 25. All coaches are overpaid but it’s what the market dictates. Comparatively, Stoops at UK (27th), Kliff Kingsbury (31st) at Texas Tech and James Franklin (8th) at Penn State all won 5 games last season and all made more than Petrino. Stoops received $652,700 per win. Kingsbury received $647,769 per win. Franklin received $880,000 per victory. Petrino was paid $ 375,438 per victory (8).


With this raise and extension, Petrino will make $3.875 million in 2016 and that would move him up to 20th on this list. Petrino will also receive a $50,000 increases every year, starting July 1, 2017 and going through June 30, 2023. Petrino will continue to earn an additional $500,000 each year if the Cardinals achieve a score of at least 935 on the Academic Progress Rating (APR). If they reach that APR,  he could earn as much as $4.375, moving him to 10th on the list. I know Dabo Swinney at Clemson just inked a more lucrative deal that moved him way up the list and other coaches are sure to follow (probably Butch Jones, Gary Patterson, Jim McElwain and Mark Dantonio). So when this season starts, Petrino will probably rank about 15th or 16th on the list. That seems about right to me.

The contract pays Petrino through the 2023 season. In that final season Petrino will make $4.175 million in base pay and potentially $4.675 million with the APR bonus. What will that rank in 7 years? Is this early extension really what Jurich said, “What I wanted to do is basically show everybody the confidence I have not only in the job that (Petrino) has done but the job that he’s doing and that our future is extremely bright,” or is it an attempt to lock the great offensive minded coach up for years to come a price that will be reasonable in the future? Bobby said he wasn’t leaving and his buyout is $10 million for the first four years. It decreases every year after through the life of the contract. Basically Jurich has total control over Petrino, financially speaking.

Tom Jurich is a very smart man and always seems to be planning ahead. I have not heard any rumors but I am going to throw this scenario out there. Maybe Tom Jurich will be retiring after the stadium expansion is completed and he feels that its very likely his son, Mark Jurich (currently Senior Associate Athletic Director for Development), will take over as Athletic Director. To help out his son, he has locked up one of the best coaches in the country at a very reasonable price. So again I ask, Is Bobby Petrino underpaid?

That scenario may seem far-fetched to some but I just can’t help but wonder. The reason I don’t think Jurich only gave Petrino a small boost in pay to lock him up for the future is because Tom Jurich is the Athletic Director of the University with the highest revenue and Tom Jurich has never been one to shy away from writing the big check. The more likely scenario is that with more success, Petrino will have his contract extended and renegotiated again in a few years to ensure his financial place among the best coaches in the country.

As Always, GO CARDS!



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