Idaho hopes to secure its football future by channeling its past.
The Vandals hired former assistant coach Paul Petrino as head coach Monday entering an era of uncertainty with a coach who exudes certainty.
Petrino was an offensive and special teams assistant at Idaho from 1992 to 1994 under former coach John L. Smith.
People feared the Vandals, Petrino said. When they took the field they were scared. They knew we were going to put the hurt on them. Thats something we want to get back. Were going to play by the rules, but were going to hit you.
Petrino takes over a program that has posted a losing record in 12 of the past 13 seasons and will enter 2013 as a Football Bowl Subdivision independent perhaps the only school left homeless by conference realignment.
He wants to stay at the FBS level. Thats still where Athletic Director Rob Spear sees the Vandals fitting.
We were upfront with it from the get-go that we are in limbo and we have, we think, opportunity, Spear said. The reason we chose to go the independent route is we thought thered be movement and lo and behold theres movement out there. And its happening a lot quicker than we thought.
Spear hasnt talked to any conferences since the latest round of shuffling began, he said.
He was too busy trying to find a coach one he hopes will make the Vandals more attractive as a conference partner.
Today is about what the University of Idaho can be, Spear said. Weve just proven with this hire that we can hire one of the best coaches in the country, one of the most innovative offensive minds in the country. He shows tremendous competitiveness and toughness and, you know what, thats at the core of what a Vandal is all about.
Petrino, 45, was the offensive coordinator at Arkansas last season and in 2008-09. He was the coordinator at Illinois in 2010-11 and Louisville from 2003 to 2006. He also has worked for the Atlanta Falcons, Southern Miss, Utah State and Carroll College.
He grew up in Helena, Mont., where his dad coached at Carroll. Several of his jobs have been on the staff of his more famous brother, Bobby Petrino, who was fired by Arkansas earlier this year.
This is Paul Petrinos first chance to run his own program.
Its something Ive worked for since I was a little kid, Petrino said. Ive dreamed about it. All I ever wanted to do was be a head coach. Its something Ive trained for my entire life. Ill give every last bit of anything I have in my body to make sure the Vandal family is back at the top and thats what we need to get done.
Spear conducted telephone interviews with 15 candidates and in-person interviews with four finalists.
Petrinos name was on Spears candidate list when he fired Robb Akey. Bobby Petrino also called to recommend him.
Other references included Smith, who served as the interim head coach at Arkansas this season; Arkansas Athletic Director Jeff Long, who told Spear he would have named Petrino the interim head coach but couldnt because of his last name, Spear said; and former Florida and Illinois coach Ron Zook.
Petrino is known for his offensive aptitude and recruiting spark.
Were going to score a bunch of points, Petrino said. Were going to be exciting. People are going to want to come to the games.
Spear also expects him to restore some order to the program with an emphasis on developing the entire student-athlete, not just the football player.
We want discipline to be a good word, not a bad word, Petrino said. What discipline does is it gives passion a purpose. If you dont have discipline, then youre reckless.
He agreed to a three-year contract worth at least $390,000 per year. The State Board of Education will consider the deal Tuesday.
The shorter term, Spear said, was designed to meet a State Board preference for contracts no longer than three years. Petrino will earn an extension year if the Vandals average a paid home attendance of 10,000 fans per game in 2013 and another one-year extension if they meet that goal in 2014 essentially making it a five-year deal.
The salary will increase by $10,000 per year if the team meets GPA goals.
Chadd Cripe: 377-6398, Twitter: @IDS_BroncoBeat