A winning season in nine years and declining attendance give the new University of Idaho football coach plenty of room to improve.
But whoever replaces Paul Petrino – whose time with the Vandals ends with one final game on Saturday against Idaho State in Pocatello – will have big shoes to fill to match Petrino’s influence on Idaho’s academic success and the culture of good citizenship among football student-athletes; and Petrino’s unwavering support for all UI sports, according to Terry Gawlik, director of athletics for Idaho.
Gawlik, who announced Thursday that the UI will not be bringing Petrino back for the final year of his contract which runs until June 2022, spoke about the change of coach at a press conference on Friday. She reiterated what was said in a press release announcing Petrino’s dismissal.
“I have the greatest respect for Paul. He is a man of integrity and strong in character. He has helped hundreds of student football athletes become better men. I am personally grateful for his loyalty to Vandal Athletics, his willingness to be a team player and the care and attention he has given to his student-athletes, ”she said at the time.
“Our children are in no trouble,” she added on Friday. “I don’t get a lot of calls from the Moscow police.”
Petrino was heading into the final year of a contract that was earning him about $ 450,000 a year. Gawlik declined to say what the financial impact would be on the university of buying Petrino and hiring his replacement and new football staff. The buyout could be prorated, based on Petrino’s future plans, and Gawlik wouldn’t say what Idaho’s upward dollar limit would be to bring in a new coach.
“I don’t have a number to share with you,” she said.
However, in general terms, she was more open about what she is looking for in a new coach. After playing in the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision from 1996 to 2017, Idaho returned in 2018 to the Football Championship Subdivision and the Big Sky Conference when the FBS Sun Belt Conference refused to continue its affiliation with the Vandals. Idaho had been in the Big Sky from the mid-1960s until he left for the FBS.
“It was difficult,” Gawlik admitted of returning to FCS. But she says Idaho’s goals are now to finish consistently in the top third in the Big Sky and play for the championships. The new football coach must also be well integrated into the community, she said, be of integrity, pursue the academic success of the student-athletes reached under Petrino and be able to connect with the management and staff of the department. athletics.
Gawlik said there was no specific timeline for appointing a new coach and that she had already received requests from potential candidates. UI also retained the services of a hiring company, College Sports Solutions, to help with the search.
Gawlik has been in Idaho since August 2019, and she said the problems facing the Vandals’ football “dated back to before I even arrived.”
Idaho hadn’t had a winning record since 2009, and it fired former coach Robb Akey midway through the 2012 season with the messy schedule on the field, in the classroom and in the community. Petrino therefore embarked on a difficult reconstruction job. He had a winning season in 2016, when Idaho went 9-4 and beat Colorado State in the famous Idaho Potato Bowl. named Academic All-America.
But Petrino’s overall record is 33-65 heading into her last game, and Idaho’s best result during Gawlik’s time as AD was 5-7 in 2019. She has said, however, that she wants evaluate the football schedule before rushing to change it.
“I’m not a big fan of cleaning the house right away. “
The COVID 2020 year that disrupted all college sports paradoxically allowed Gawlik to focus more on the football program and Petrino’s ability to lead it into the future. “We have become a very tight staff,” she said. “We got to know each other. “
She did not identify specific events that led her to believe football needed to take a new direction, but said she agreed with Petrino to herald the change, so that an uncertain fate. do not threaten him before the final match.
“Paul and I talked about it a lot,” she said. “I wanted to make sure Paul was able to coach his team to the end.”
She said a new coach has the option of retaining the current assistant coaches, and speaking with the team on Thursday, she got the impression that players are generally determined to push through with a regime change. “I hope that one of our student-athletes considering accessing the transfer portal will contact me,” she said.
Gawlik also said that Petrino strongly believes the Vandals are on the cusp of sustained success.
“Paul is a work horse,” said Gawlik. “He’s always optimistic. He never suggested to her that maybe he couldn’t do it in Idaho.
She said firmly “we never discussed it”.