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Idaho announces football coach Paul Petrino won’t return to Moscow in 2022

UPDATED: Thu., Nov. 18, 2021

Idaho coach Paul Petrino watches his team during a Big Sky game against Eastern Washington on Oct. 16 in Cheney.  (Dan Pelle/The Spokesman-Review)
Idaho coach Paul Petrino watches his team during a Big Sky game against Eastern Washington on Oct. 16 in Cheney. (Dan Pelle/The Spokesman-Review)
By From staff reports

From staff reports

MOSCOW – Paul Petrino, the longest-tenured football coach in University of Idaho history, will not be returning to the Vandals’ sideline next season.

Five hours after Tubs at the Club reported the news, the university’s athletic department announced Thursday that Petrino will coach his final game for Idaho when the Vandals visit Idaho State in Pocatello on Saturday.

“We are committed to competing at the top of the Big Sky Conference and the FCS,” UI athletic director Terry Gawlik said in a release. “We will work tirelessly to find a dynamic coach that will lead the Vandals back to the playoffs. Our goals are lofty, and our expectations are high, but we know the Vandal family expects nothing less than championship-caliber football in the Kibbie Dome.”

Idaho boosters have raised funds with the intention of buying out the remainder of Petrino’s contract, per the report, which cited anonymous sources “close to University of Idaho Athletics.” Gawlik could not confirm that claim during an impromptu news conference Thursday evening at ICCU Arena.

Petrino has been at the Vandals’ helm since 2013. He was hired to rebuild a program that was left in shambles after former coach Robb Akey was fired during the 2012 season.

But Petrino’s Vandals never found consistent success in both the Sun Belt Conference (2014-17) and the Big Sky Conference (2018-present).

Gawlik said a national search will begin immediately. Without revealing who, she said she has some candidates in mind. She’s looking for a proven winner with a positive character and an understanding of the current sports landscape – social media, the transfer portal etc.

There’s a possibility that some UI assistants are retained, she said, and that’ll be up to the next head coach.

Gawlik said the conversations about Idaho and Petrino parting ways after the season “have gone back a bit,” declining to provide a time frame. She mentioned that UI’s 50-point loss to Eastern Washington on Oct. 16 was “tough.”

Idaho has compiled a 33-66 record in Petrino’s tenure, including a 14-25 mark since 2018, when the Vandals returned to the Big Sky after 22 seasons in the FBS. Idaho became the first and only FBS program to drop to the FCS.

The Vandals posted one winning season in nine years under Petrino, a 9-4 campaign in 2016 that concluded with a 61-50 win over Colorado State at the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl in Boise. Petrino was named the coach of the year in the Sun Belt.

Petrino’s contract runs through June 30 and his base salary is listed at $446,214.40 – the highest among Big Sky coaches.

“I’m very proud of all we accomplished during my time leading this program,” Petrino said, quoted in a news release. “(Wife) Maya and I remain grateful for the opportunity and will take incredible memories with us as we transition to our next endeavor. Our kids grew up here and this University and program will always hold a special place in our hearts.

“I want to thank our current and former players as well as every coach who has been a part of this program over the past nine years. … I wish nothing but continued success for the current team and will always be in their corner.”

Petrino, 54, grew up in Helena and played quarterback at Carroll College under his late father, coach Bob Petrino Sr.

He got his coaching start at Carroll before a three-year stint at Idaho from 1992-94 under John L. Smith. Petrino coached the Vandals’ receivers, running backs and special teams then.

Other coaching stops include Utah State, Louisville, Southern Miss, Arkansas, Illinois and the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons. Petrino worked as offensive coordinator for the Razorbacks from 2008-09, and returned to Arkansas in the same role in 2012 after a two-year stay as the Fighting Illini’s OC.

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