Plein: Why Missouri State believes hiring Petrino will work


On Thursday, Bobby Petrino’s coaching career came full circle.

In 1990, a young offensive coordinator for Idaho came to Plaster Stadium for a playoff game.  Petrino was just 29-years-old.

“It was like a tennis match,” Petrino said.  “They’d go down and score, and then we’d go down and score.”

SMS lost that game, 41-35.  It was the last time the Bears played a postseason game.

Administrators, fans, and Petrino, the Bears new head coach, hopes all of that will change in the years to come.

“If you’re going to write a script, let’s write a script like this,” Petrino said. “I come here.  I’m very successful.  I decide eight to ten years from now if I want to continue coaching football… with national championship in my pocket.”

Many would call that script Hollywood fiction.

But for Petrino and the Missouri State administrators it could be more of a Hoosiers type story – with Petrino playing the role of Gene Hackman.

Think about that for a minute.

In Hoosiers, Hackman played Norman Dale.  Dale was a successful coach whose actions led to him being fired.  The coach found his way to little, Hickory High School where an old friend gave him a chance to coach again.

You know how this story plays out – if not – stop reading and watch it now.

Replace Norman Dale with Bobby Petrino.  Replace Dale’s friend at Hickory High School with MSU Athletic Director Kyle Moats – the two worked together at Louisville.

As for Jimmy Chitwood, I’m still working on that.  You don’t know who he is?  Stop now and watch the movie.

Anyway, Petrino has been very successful at the FBS level; a 119-56 record in 14-years.  And now, he’s a Missouri State Bear.

“We just made a tremendous hire that has a chance to change the trajectory of the football program and raise the profile of our university,” MSU President Clif Smart said.

Here’s why Missouri State thinks Petrino can be a winner in his tenure.

Coaching Staff

And when you’re only as good as the people you surround yourself with, Petrino is making sure he’s getting what he wants.

Petrino took a pay cut from what Missouri State offered.  He threw the extra money in a pool for assistant coaches.

“He’s also going to donate $70,000 a year out of his pocket for the assistant coaches pool,” Moats said.  “Unsolicited by me, okay.  That’s what he wants to do.  He’s vested in this place.”


With a staff in place, Petrino can turn to what he’s good at – recruiting.

Dave Steckel always said this area is a goldmine for football.  Can Petrino find the right mine shaft and can keep that talent in state.

It’s too late for the Gatorade Player of the Year in Missouri, Isaiah Davis from Joplin High School.  He’s going to MVFC rival South Dakota State.

But imagine who Petrino can bring in with his name recognition alone?


Petrino has an exciting brand of football.  Fans like scoring, right?

Three of Petrino’s Louisville teams had more than 500-yards per game:

545.0 ypg – 2017

539.0 ypg – 2004

532.7 ypg – 2016

His best finish with Arkansas in the defensive-rich SEC:

438.1 ypg – 2011

In 2019, the Bears had 284.2 yards per game.

Missouri State was outscored 397-170.


Along with offense comes attendance – fans want an experience when they go out.

Petrino will improve the offense and in turn, that will improve the fans in the stands.

Stec’s first game in 2015 was over 17,000.  He was coming off a Broyles Award Finalist nomination.  This was a new era.

The 2019 season finale had an announced crowd of just over 3,300.

Fans want to be entertained.


At Thursday’s introduction, Petrino was telling stories and cracking jokes.  He reminisced about his dad.  He said he’s on the “other side of the hill” in his coaching career.

President Clif Smart and Athletic Director Kyle Moats did their background on Petrino before the hire.

One of Smart’s longtime friends is Larry Benz who has held different positions as an administrator at the University of Louisville.

Benz gushed about the football coach who was fired at Louisville in 2018 because of a 2-10 start to the season.

They say he’s a different man from the one who left the Atlanta Falcons during the season.

He’s a different man from the one who led Arkansas to a number-five ranking in 2011 only to be removed months later in a scandal.

“Bobby Petrino 2.0 is a different person than Bobby Petrino the first time through Louisville,” President Smart said.

“He’s engaged, he’s committed to his family, it’s about success of the student athlete.”

The night before his announcement, Petrino was at the basketball Bears game.  He visited fans in the student section.

He posted a picture on Twitter of him at that game.

Fans sent congratulations to the coach and welcomed him to Springfield.

Petrino then took the time to reply to many of those fans – continuing his crusade the next morning before his introduction.

Fans are ready for a winner.

Even a man who can maybe bring the first winning season to Missouri State in 11-years.

“My dad always believed, you could find a way to win no matter where you go,” Petrino said.  “He taught me to reach for the top of the rainbow and don’t let the doubters effect you.”

How will this story end?

Guess we’ll wait for the movie.