Hiring Back An Employee Who Left You

Did you see what happened last week on the college football carousel?  The University of Louisville hired their ex-coach, and current Western Kentucky Coach, Bobby Petrino.  For those who don’t know the Bobby Petrino story check out his detailed coaching timeline on SB Nation (it’s awesome!) – I’ll give you a five second tour:

I. Hired Head Football Coach at University of Louisville – doing great (2004)

II. Hired Head Coach NFL Atlanta Falcons (Jan. 2007) – didn’t do great

III. Leaves mid-season and takes University of Arkansas Head Coach job – did good (December 2007)

IV. Head Coach Arkansas, has a motorcycle crash with a 25 year old female assistant on the back that wasn’t his wife and that he was having an affair with, and that he hired – Power drunk. (April 2012)

V. Fired as Head Coach at Arkansas – not good (April 2012)

VI. Hired Head Football Coach Western Kentucky University- did good (December 2012)

VII. Hired Head Football Coach University of Louisville. (January 2013)

There’s a bunch of other luggage along the way that SB Nation points out which leads me to only one question – Was it a good hire by Louisville to take Bobby Petrino back?

I asked a couple of my friends and fellow #8ManRotation authors this same question – here are their responses:

Matt (akaBruno) Stollak:

How much time off does a mercurial talent deserve before being brought back?  Is Jim Tressel looking at the Petrino hiring and thinking he is up next?

Similarly, how does Louisville Football Core Values (http://ftw.usatoday.com/2013/06/louisville-footballs-core-team-values-include-no-guns-no-drugs/) continue to exist when Petrino has blatantly violated #1 and #2.    Is it all about winning?  What message does it send to staff and players?

Steve (Mr. HR Tech) Boese:

Even a cynic like me is surprised by this move. I guess the argument was he hit rock bottom and now has done the football equivalent of finding Jesus or something, But it is also about positioning, Louisville does not want to be a stepping stone job between the MAC and the Big 10 or SEC, (they are delusional about this, but I think it is true). So at some level they see this hire as a the best they could do with that in mind. No successful power conference coach would leave for Louisville so with Petrino they find the closest they could to that ideal.

Petrino going to Western Kentucky after his biggest screw up at Arkansas and before coming back to Louisville also serves to give Louisville some cover on this. It is kind of like Western Kentucky took at least some of the flak for letting the guy back in to the world of coaching and at least in theory that will diminish the heat that Louisville is going to take.  Kind of like Petrino went to jail (getting canned at Arkansas), then got released to probation, (Western Kentucky), and now the ankle bracelet has been finally cut off (back to Louisville).

Here’s my take:

The best hires that most companies will never make are the ones like this.  He was great for us.  Went someplace else and had a meltdown. Now we won’t hire him back either.  For some reason, he was great with you.  Don’t discount what certain environments, certain cultures, etc. will do for someone’s performance.  Bobby Petrino is a broken man, coming home to where he had his most success.  This might turn out to a great hire for Louisville.

What do you think?


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