Destin, Fla. — Bobby Petrino knows he won’t be getting Christmas cards from the Falcons, their fans, or their management this year. But the Arkansas coach insisted Tuesday that his abrupt departure from the NFL team last December could not be avoided.
“It was an unfortunate thing because of the timing,” Petrino said as he arrived for his first SEC Spring Meetings as the coach of the Hogs. “The timing of it was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do in my life.”
On Dec. 11, with three games left in the 2007 season, Petrino suddenly resigned as the Falcons’ coach at about 5:30 p.m. Six hours later Petrino was on ESPN being introduced as the new coach at Arkansas in a news conference in Fayetteville. The move touched off charges and countercharges between Petrino’s agent, Russ Campbell, and the Falcons, led by owner Arthur Blank, who said he felt “betrayed” by Petrino.
Over the next few days the vitriol levied at Petrino was not coming from Atlanta alone. Talk shows and newspaper columnists from around the country skewered Petrino for leaving his team before the season was over.
Petrino said that he threw himself into the Arkansas job and was not aware of the media beating he was receiving.
“It was hard on my family. It was hard on my wife and my kids, but I didn’t hear a lot of it,” Petrino said. “That was probably good.”