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Petrino leaves Falcons to take Arkansas job

December 12, 2007|From the Associated Press

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. -- Bobby Petrino was hired Tuesday as the football coach at Arkansas, capping a whirlwind day in which he stunningly resigned from the Atlanta Falcons after just 13 games.

Petrino succeeds Houston Nutt, who stepped down at Arkansas two weeks ago and became the head coach at Mississippi. Petrino was introduced as the Razorbacks coach by incoming Athletic Director Jeff Long at a late-night news conference.

In January, Petrino left as head coach at Louisville to take over in Atlanta, given a five-year, $24-million contract by a team that felt he could help Michael Vick reach his full potential.

However, the star quarterback came under investigation for his role in a dogfighting operation that led to his pleading guilty to federal charges. On Monday, Vick was sentenced to 23 months in prison, without ever having taken a snap for Petrino. The NFL had suspended Vick before the season started.

On Monday night, the Falcons lost to New Orleans, 34-14, and hours later Petrino left the team with a 3-10 record to return to the college ranks.

"Today was a day of decision," Petrino said. "It was difficult on one side, very easy on the other. It was difficult to leave Atlanta, the staff, players, fans. The timing of it probably is the thing that made it most difficult. Coming to Arkansas was the easy part."

Arkansas had been looking for a coach for two weeks to replace Nutt, who resigned after a tumultuous season of his own. The Razorbacks came close to hiring Wake Forest's Jim Grobe last week, but Grobe decided to stay there, and Arkansas fans wondered whether the school could attract a big-name coach.

In Petrino, the Razorbacks found one. He went 41-9 in four years at Louisville before leaving in January to join the Falcons.

Petrino's stint was one of the shortest for a non-interim coach since the 1970 NFL-AFL merger. Pete McCulley was fired after starting out 1-8 with San Francisco in 1978, and Sid Gillman lasted only 10 games in his second stint as San Diego coach, going 4-6 in 1971 before quitting.

Atlanta owner Arthur Blank and General Manager Rich McKay were scheduled to hold a news conference today. There was no immediate word on who would take over for the team's final three games.

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