Bobby Petrino, hired as the head football coach at Missouri State in January 2020, has always regarded coaching not as a way to make a living, but as a way of life. The son of a coach — the late Bobby Petrino Sr. — the younger Petrino grew up around the game, then grew within it by working with some of his generation’s most respected strategists.
Before accepting his new position Bobby Petrino had spent 36 years in coaching, 15 as a head coach, notably at the University of Louisville (2003-06 and 2014-18) and the University of Arkansas (2008-11). He has compiled a 119-56 record and seen his teams finish in the Top 25 seven times, including Top 10 showings at Louisville in 2004 and 2006 and at Arkansas in 2011. His teams have also played in 11 bowl games, winning five.
Known for his offensive acumen, Bobby Petrino authored the 2020 book “Inside the Pocket: an In-Depth Analysis of the Xs and Os” with Joe Metzka, PhD. In it Petrino discusses his wide-open offensive style, as well as his philosophy for developing quarterbacks like Lamar Jackson, who won the Heisman Trophy while playing for Petrino at Louisville in 2016.
That season Lamar, now a star with the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens, passed for 3,543 yards and 30 touchdowns and rushed for 1,571 yards and 21 TDs. In his three-year collegiate career he generated over 13,000 yards on the ground and through the air, while accounting for a staggering 119 touchdowns.
Bobby Petrino, whose other head-coaching stops were at Western Kentucky in 2013 and with the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons in 2007, is a native of Lewistown, Mont. While still in elementary school he can recall breaking down film and charting plays on the sideline for his dad, a long-time coach at Carroll College in nearby Helena. He later played quarterback for him, then launched his coaching career as a graduate assistant at Carroll.
One of his dad’s best pieces of advice, Bobby Petrino recalled, was this: “Reach for the top of the rainbow.” In other words, aim high. Shoot for the stars. Don’t let anyone or anything hold you back.
Other influences abounded as Bobby Petrino served as an assistant at various spots over the next two decades. While working under John L. Smith on three different occasions (at Idaho, Utah State and Louisville), Bobby Petrino learned about relating to players. While working for Bruce Snyder at Arizona State, he learned about the running game, and while under Mike Price at Weber State he received a tutorial on the passing game.
Chris Ault, under whom Bobby Petrino worked at Nevada, taught him about motivating players, while Tom Coughlin, coach of the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars, gave Petrino a greater overall understanding of strategy and technique.
Bobby Petrino has, as a result, been able to apply all those lessons to his own head-coaching career.
“I feel like I develop young men,” he said. “You bring them in, get them when they’re 18 years old, and basically raise them.”
He has put an emphasis not only on on-field growth, but on academics and social development, two examples of the latter being etiquette dinners and dress-for-success nights, when the players are given pointers about dining and dressing properly for a formal occasion.
At the same time he has shown an ability to build a football brand — especially at Louisville, a place that has not always been known for the sport. He has done this not only by employing his usual wide-open, entertaining offensive style (and by winning, naturally) but also by maximizing the program’s television exposure and ensuring that the players would be outfitted in the fanciest state-of-the-art uniforms.
“We tried to look good and play good,” he said.
Bobby Petrino and his wife Becky have four children and six grandchildren. His brother Paul is the head coach at the University of Idaho.