LOUISVILLE, Ky. (KT) - Bobby Petrino has had a rough year as the University of Louisville football coach. Now he has been upstaged by his daughter.
Kelsey Petrino Scott posted a passionate defense of her father on Facebook Sunday, criticizing fans who have turned against him in the midst of a disappointing 2-5 season that includes an 0-4 record in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Kelsey and her sister, Katie, work for the Petrino Family Foundation, which Petrino and his wife, Becky, started when he returned to Louisville 4 1/2 years ago and which has since donated over a $1 million to numerous charities in the area. The sisters are both married to U of L assistant coaches.
Kelsey acknowledged that, like fans, she is also disappointed and frustrated by the Cardinals' lack of success this season but listed her father's contributions to the football program during his two stints as head coach and asked for fans' support as the season winds down.
"I've lived this football life since the day I was born," she wrote in part. "It's not easy. When you’re a part of the coaching world... whether you were hired into it, born into it, or married into it... you learn to swallow a lot of criticism. You ignore it the best you can. But in today’s world it’s always right there in front of you, staring you in the face, forcing you to learn to live with it. It’s a test of character time and time again to not lash back at some of the stupidity of it. And a test of character once again to acknowledge the truth that can be found in it.
"This season, I’ve never experienced anything like it. I’ve never seen my dad coach a team that has struggled like this team. It’s gut-wrenching, to say the least. I know we are having a bad season. It’s hard for me to watch, too. However, I am just in shock at how quickly it seems everyone has turned against us. I’ve really been struggling with it.
"When we came back here, we wanted to be more than just a football family. We wanted to be contributing members of your community. We wanted to show you our devotion in hopes you would return some to us as well. But here we are, halfway through one bad season and suddenly it seems like nothing matters anymore. Not even the players. This season will probably go down as one of the worst my dad has ever coached, but for some of you to act like he’s not still a GREAT coach, is nonsense."
Kelsey went on to cite some of her dad's accomplishments at U of L, noting that the school has had a total of just 13 seasons with nine or more wins and six of those were coached by her father. He also coached the only teams that have had four consecutive seasons with eight or more victories.
"One bad season and we are all ready to jump ship? To turn our backs on everyone who has worked so hard because we aren’t perfect this year?
"My dad is a great coach. This is a bad season. It won’t define his coaching career. He is one of the best coaches Louisville has ever had and is personally responsible for taking the football program to heights not seen before. He has also invested a lot of his time and money to help this community outside of football. He and our entire family love Louisville. It is why we wanted to come back. It is our home too!
"I understand the disappointment. I feel the frustration, too. I’ve been sick to my stomach, dreading every weekend. The negativity surrounding all of it is very overwhelming. We still have 5 games left. This team is going to need every ounce of support they can get. Can we at least hold the negativity and anger off till the end of the season?"
Naturally, Petrino was asked about his daughter's Facebook post during a short press conference following Monday's practice.
"Kelsey is strong-willed. She always has been," he said. "She said, 'Hey dad, I've got a post I'd like to put up, so I said, 'Well, what is it?' She said, 'Why don't you just read it and find out.' Kelsey's got a lot of love for the city of Louisville, a lot of love for our family. I'm very proud of her and Katie and she is very proud of what our foundation has done in the short period of time it's been in existence and how much her and Katie have grown it. I'm just proud of Kelsey and Katie, that's all."
Some fans have been calling for Petrino's dismissal - despite a $14 million buyout - and the hiring of Purdue coach and former UofL quarterback/assistant coach Jeff Brohm. That talk has escalated in the wake of the Boilermakers' stunning 49-20 rout of then-No. 2 Ohio State. Even Sports Illustrated has waded into the fray, writing that Brohm would be a perfect fit for UofL.
In his first media availability the first time since Louisville's 38-20 loss to Boston College on Oct. 13, Petrino reiterated what he has often said in the past several weeks.
"I'm just working. I just come to work and work hard every day and work to get better."
UofL will take a four-game losing streak into Saturday's noon game in Cardinal Stadium against Wake Forest (3-4, 0-3), which is the Cards' best chance to get another victory this season. Of their four remaining opponents after that, three are ranked in the top 25 - No. 2 Clemson, No. 22 NC State and No. 12 Kentucky - and the other game is at Syracuse.
“I'm proud of what we've accomplished here as a coaching staff and the success that we've had here, you know, the things that we've been able to build in my time here," Petrino said. "We're standing in one of them, the Trager Center, and the two (stadium) expansions, so I know we've had success. I'm not proud of this season. I felt we would be better than this. I thought we would play better than this, but we're gonna keep working and continue to get better."
Asked if he had been given any assurances by UofL athletics director Vince Tyra, Petrino responded, "Oh no. I haven't talked anything about that. Just working."
In an interview last Friday with Rick Bozich of WDRB.com, Tyra said he has "a lot of faith in Petrino's coaching ability.
"Bobby has been a winner his whole career," Tyra said. "He's won well over 100 games. I don't think he's forgotten how to coach. I'm hopeful he can get this thing going in the right direction the last five games.”
Tyra says his evaluation of the season includes a Sunday morning ritual.
"I put on a pot of coffee and watch a replay of the (previous) game," he said. "I watch the entire game and try to get another perspective. I've been clear that I'm not in any rush and I'm not going to be influenced by fans' emotions. I'll be more influenced by my own instincts on what's going on and talking it through with Bobby and the coaches."
PASS RETAINS STARTING JOB
Almost lost Monday in the hubbub surrounding his daughter's comments and his future was Petrino's vote of confidence in quarterback Juwon Pass, who was named the starter for Wake Forest after a poor outing against BC and his benching in the fourth quarter. It was the third time in six starts that Pass had been relieved.
"Puma's our starting quarterback, and I think he's shown improvement in certainly two of the last three games," Petrino said. "But we want to work on consistency and accuracy. He's had some inaccurate passes at times. I still think his decision-making is getting better, and he's seeing things better."
Petrino said he worked with Pass during the bye week on reading defenses both before and after the snap. The redshirt sophomore has thrown eight interceptions against just six touchdown passes, and Petrino said the correct pre-snap adjustments can help him find an open receiver more often.
Russ Brown, a former sportswriter for The Courier-Journal and USA Today, covers University of Louisville sports and college basketball and football for Kentucky Today. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.