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.
"It is a tremendous honor for me to be named the 30th head coach at Arkansas, particularly on a night when we honored coach (Frank) Broyles for his 50 years service," Petrino said, referring to the former head coach and outgoing athletic director. "He's such a legend, and I can't wait to develop a relationship with him."
In January, Petrino left as head coach at Louisville to take over in Atlanta, agreeing to a five-year, $24 million contract handed out by a team that felt he could help Michael Vick reach his full potential.
However, the star quarterback came under investigation for a grisly dogfighting operation that led him to plead guilty to federal charges. On Monday, Vick was sentenced Monday to 23 months in prison without ever taking a snap for Petrino.
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 remained with the Demon Deacons, and Arkansas fans had to wonder whether the school could attract a big-name coach.
In Petrino, the Razorbacks found one. Petrino went 41-9 in four years at Louisville, coaching some of the highest-scoring teams in the country before leaving in January to join the Falcons.
Petrino received a standing ovation from the Arkansas supporters who came to his introductory news conference.