Bobby Petrino is back as the football coach at Louisville, and it's no mystery why.
Better the devil you know than the devil you don't.
Petrino's foibles are many. At Louisville 10 years ago, Petrino interviewed for the Auburn job while the Auburn job was still quite capably held by Tommy Tuberville. Indeed, Tuberville would coach Auburn to a 13-0 season a year later. While coaching the Atlanta Falcons, Petrino walked out on his team with two games left in the season to take the Arkansas job. At Arkansas, Petrino lied to his bosses about a motorcycle crash with his mistress aboard, the same mistress for whom he had arranged a job in the football office.
Good thing the Ohio River flows hard through Louisville. Rats need a place to rest, too.
Why would Louisville trust such a man with something as obviously valuable as the university's football program? Because the 'Ville knows exactly how this will go. Petrino will win big — he won big at Louisville and Arkansas — and it will end in scandal. It always ends in scandal.
Louisville is an extreme example of the current lot of college football. Trusting others more than you trust yourself. Put your faith in the track record of what coaches have accomplished. Let others experiment with new blood. Louisville hired someone it can't trust because it doesn't trust itself.
So far this offseason, 12 of the 18 head-coaching hires jumped from other head-coaching jobs. The six schools that have hired assistants are Arkansas State, Connecticut, Florida Atlantic, Massachusetts, Miami-Ohio and Western Kentucky. And UMass hired Mark Whipple, who had previously been the Minutemen's coach.
Look at the good jobs available. All went to established head coaches. Texas hired Louisville's Charlie Strong. Southern Cal hired Washington's Steve Sarkisian. Washington hired Boise State's Chris Petersen. Penn State hired Vanderbilt's James Franklin. Louisville hired Petrino.
Rarely do the good jobs go to an assistant. Oregon is a notable exception; the Ducks promoted Chip Kelly in 2009, then promoted Mark Helfrich in 2013. Oregon seems to be doing OK.
Texas Tech was the next-best job that went to an assistant, Kliff Kingsbury.
Same in 2012. Pitt hired Wisconsin assistant Paul Chryst. Penn State hired NFL assistant Bill O'Brien. Props to the Nittany Lions.
2011 was somewhat better. West Virginia hired Dana Holgorsen, Stanford hired David Shaw and Florida hired Will Muschamp. Assistants all.
So it does happen. In fact, some schools make a practice of it.
Our two schools, for example. OSU and OU rank 1-3 among major-conference schools in hiring assistants for head-coach openings since World War II.
OSU has hired just one head coach, Floyd Gass of Austin College in 1969, when the school just across the Red River was in the NAIA. Times were simpler then.
OU has hired just two head coaches, and one of those is iffy. Jim Tatum had been head coach at North Carolina in 1942, then went into the service and coached wartime football with Iowa Pre-Flight, under the legendary Don Faurot. The other head coach hired by the Sooners was Howard Schnellenberger, in 1995.
Tatum and the Colonel lasted one season each. Not quite the Sooner legacies of Bud Wilkinson, Chuck Fairbanks, Barry Switzer and Bob Stoops, all of which made their head-coaching debuts with OU.
Gass coached the Cowboys just three years, going 13-18-1. Every OSU coach thereafter, the likes of Jim Stanley and Jimmy Johnson and Pat Jones and Les Miles and Mike Gundy, had increasing success. Again, assistants all before getting the chance in Stillwater.
One way is not necessarily better than other. Among the schools that rarely have hired an assistant are Alabama, Texas and Ohio State. Among the schools that routinely have given novices a chance are Georgia, Nebraska and Florida State.
But the OU/OSU way seems more fulfilling. A sign that success is not so coach-centric. A belief in yourself as a program. That your decision-makers know what they want and can trust their instincts and their judgment. And the assurance that the unknown is not to be feared, and deals don't have to be made with the devil.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.