UNDATED (USA Today) -- Bobby Petrino visited his parents in Helena, Mont., for several weeks in October. He usually woke up early and went on two-mile hikes with his mother, Patsy, then spent afternoons playing golf with his father, Bob Sr. Conversations, the father said, usually returned to football.
"I know he wants a job; he needs a job," Petrino Sr. said by telephone Wednesday. "He told me, 'I need a job, Dad.' I said, 'Well, you must still have some money. You made $3.5 million.' And he said, 'Yeah, I do. It's not the money.' He just misses coaching so much."
As college football's coaching carousel begins to turn, Petrino's name will inevitably pop up, sometimes with a wince, always with some caution. But reservations are usually followed with the acknowledgment that he is one of the brightest minds in football.
On local airwaves and message boards, many University of Kentucky fans have made it clear they would love to see Petrino replace Joker Phillips, misdeeds and all. And on Wednesday, Petrino Sr. made it clear that his son would love to be at Kentucky.
"I just know this, that he's interested in Kentucky," the father said. "He wants to stay in the SEC. That was his life's goal was to go to the SEC."
Petrino was fired by Arkansas in April after getting into a motorcycle accident that ultimately revealed much more than broken ribs. He misled athletic director Jeff Long about his romantic relationship with his passenger, Jessica Dorrell, a 25-year-old athletic department employee Petrino had hired.
The incident has made athletic directors understandably reluctant to pursue Petrino. On Sunday Yahoo! Sports reported that UK would not consider him for its opening.
"You know, he made mistakes," Petrino Sr. said, "but he couldn't have gone through any punishment worse than losing his job. He's missed coaching tremendously."
Petrino Sr., who coached at Carroll College in Montana from 1971-98, said he always knew his son had a mind for football. Young Bobby used to go on recruiting visits with his father, and he had an uncanny ability to memorize interiors of the recruits' homes. The elder Petrino told his son he would make a great detective someday. Instead, he became a football coach.
"He was able to see things immediately," Petrino Sr. said. "There would be 22 people on the field, and he knew what everyone was supposed to be doing."
Bobby Petrino was the University of Louisville's coach from 2003-06, going 41-9 and leading the Cardinals to an Orange Bowl victory over Wake Forest in his final season. His daughter, Katie, is a member of Louisville's golf team. Petrino Sr. said his son's familiarity with the state of Kentucky, combined with his experience in the SEC, should make him an attractive candidate for Kentucky.
"I think he'd win there," he said. "He can win. He's proven that. He went to Arkansas and I don't think he ever had, by the experts, a class of recruiting that was in the top 10. And the last year he coached there he won 11 games, and the year before that he won 10, so he has his own way of recruiting and judging people."
Petrino Sr. said his wife would not let him comment about whether their son had been contacted by any colleges recently; he did say he didn't think Bobby had spoken to Kentucky. During Petrino's visit to Montana last month, his father said, most Saturdays were filled with college football. Father and son watched as many as three games a day together.
"He's stayed a student of the game," the elder Petrino said. "He told me he might take the first job he gets offered. Of course, I'm his dad and he's my son, so I believe in him."
Adam Himmelsbach writes for The (Louisville) Courier-Journal, which is owned and operated by Gannett, the parent company of USA TODAY Sports.