He returns to the state where he successfully began his head coaching career. Petrino coached at Louisville from 2003-06, going 41-9 and leading the Cardinals to a 12-1 mark and their first-ever BCS berth in the Orange Bowl in 2006.
Now that he’s back in the state, the coach said he and wife Becky “consider this coming home.”
While at Louisville, Petrino was offered an NFL job and he left the Cardinals to become coach of the Atlanta Falcons.
He had a brief 13-game stint in 2007 with Atlanta. The Falcons stumbled to a 3-10 start before Petrino left for Arkansas, announcing his departure to players in a four-sentence laminated letter left at their lockers.
Arkansas had a losing record _ 5-7 _ in his first season. But Petrino and the Razorbacks improved each after that. They were to 8-5 in 2009, 10-3 with a Sugar Bowl appearance in 2010 and went 11-2 with a Cotton Bowl bid in 2011.
He takes over a 7-5 Western Kentucky team that’s headed to its first bowl appearance as an FBS school. The Hilltoppers will play in the Little Caesar’s Pizza Bowl on Dec. 26 against Central Michigan.
WKU defensive coordinator Lance Guidry was named interim coach on Saturday and will coach the team in the bowl game.
Petrino will be hands-off until after the bowl game.
The new coach did meet with Hilltoppers players on Monday afternoon. Petrino expects the program to consistently win conference championships, bowl games and to compete for a BCS bowl berth.
Stewart believes Petrino can take WKU to the next level.
“I’m confident that he’ll be here for a while and hope that he’s here for a long time,” Stewart said. “No one person is bigger than the program, it’s about the program. The important thing is that the program continues to develop and get better and go to places that its never been.
“You need a field general to give you the best chance to have that happen, and coach Petrino is the best one out there for us.”
AP Freelancer Writer Brad Stephens in Bowling Green contributed to this report.
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