In the NFL world, Bobby Petrino’s reputation for not being a man of his word stems mostly from his decision to abandon the Falcons during his only season as their head coach and take a job at Arkansas. In the college football world, Petrino’s reputation for not being a man of his word goes much deeper than that.
There was the time Petrino gave his mistress a job in the Arkansas athletic department, then engaged in a cover-up after questions were raised when he crashed his motorcycle with her on the back. There was the time Petrino took a job as an assistant at Auburn without even bothering to tell his boss (Tom Coughlin) that he was leaving his previous job. There was the time he went behind the backs of his bosses at Louisville in an attempt to get Auburn to fire his former boss (Tommy Tuberville) and get himself hired in Tuberville’s place. There was the time Petrino quit Louisville six months after signing a 10-year contract extension and promising he wasn’t going anywhere.
And now we have the recruitment of Matt Colburn.
Colburn is a running back at Dutch Fork High School in South Carolina. Eight months ago, Colburn committed to play for Petrino at Louisville. (Petrino is in his second stint as Louisville’s head coach; you can be forgiven if you’re having trouble keeping up with all the twists and turns in Petrino’s career path.) Colburn is considered a three-star prospect: A very good football player, although not the kind of elite talent who has scholarship offers from all the top football schools across the country. At the time that Colburn committed, Louisville seemed like a good fit for him.
But it turned out that Louisville had more good players commit to this year’s class than they were expecting. So many good players that they couldn’t fit them all under the scholarship limit. So instead of telling some of the new kids who have come along, “Sorry, but we don’t have any more scholarships to give,” this week Petrino decided that Colburn — who shut down his own recruiting eight months ago when he committed to Louisville — wouldn’t have a scholarship to enroll at Louisville in the fall after all.
That’s a lousy way to treat a kid who made a commitment to your football program, and it leaves Colburn in limbo. The other schools that had been recruiting Colburn moved on when he announced his commitment to Louisville eight months ago, and they’ve now reached their own scholarship limits and no longer have a scholarship to offer him — and unlike Petrino, those other coaches won’t kick another kid to the curb to make room. So Colburn is now scrambling to find another college to attend.
Oh, and did I mention that Petrino didn’t even have the guts to tell Colburn himself? Petrino had an assistant coach make the call to inform Colburn that he won’t be getting a scholarship to Louisville this year.
Colburn’s high school coach, Tom Knotts, is furious and says he and some other high school coaches have decided they will no longer work with Petrino when he wants to recruit their players.
“I tell my players when you commit, you commit,” Knotts told the Spartanburg Herald-Journal. “That’s what a commitment is. Matt’s been committed for eight months. It’s irritating that men can do this. He’s just a boy, a young man. He doesn’t know how to understand it. He’s very upset. Some things have opened up but that’s not the way it should be. It’s not right. Louisville is only going to hurt themselves doing this. Everybody knows not just what a good player Matt is but what a good person he is. That is not the way to do business and if that’s the way to do business we don’t want to deal with them. [Petrino] won’t be able to recruit my school anymore and I imagine there will be some other coaches that will say the same thing. Trust factor is just not there.”
At this point, anyone who puts trust in Petrino is just asking to be betrayed. Unfortunately, Petrino is still in a position where kids who don’t know better are vulnerable to his dishonesty.