By LARRY VAUGHT
J.R. Greer of London knows numerous ex-Kentucky football players and often communicates with them as well as his former college roommate through Facebook.
That’s why Friday he thought he might have a little fun with them and posted a message that Bobby Petrino had agreed to become the next Kentucky football coach.
“If I could get any coach out there, I would get Petrino,” said Greer. “I go to every UK game and tailgate. I love Kentucky football. I just decided to post Petrino was getting the job and figured my friends would get all riled up and react. I never dreamed it would go outside my small network of friends.”
It did. And it did in a big way even before news broke Saturday that Cincinnati coach Butch Jones, who was considered UK’s primary target, had taken his name out of the Kentucky search.
Internet message boards spread the word about Petrino more so than any news about Jones. Radio talk shows spread the Petrino word.
Eventually Greer had to go on Facebook late Friday and post this message: “I want to apologize that earlier I wrote that Bobby Petrino would be our next coach. My post was in humor as most all my post are (if not pictures of family or friends). We support UK and the Big Blue Nation and trust Mitch Barnhart will make the best hire possible for UK.”
However, Greer admitted he “had hundreds of friend requests in a matter of minutes” with people hoping the news about Petrino was true. He even got a message from an assistant coach at a well-known program asking him to pass along his name to Petrino because he wanted to work on Petrino’s staff at Kentucky.
“That let me know fans not only deserved a quality football coach, but expected strong leadership from the UK administration and Mitch Barnhart,” Greer said. “I am just not sure Mitch Barnhart and the UK administration are doing enough to inform fans. Throw us a bone and let us know something.
“People were calling and sending me messages that they were praying for this (hiring Petrino). My little voice was not supposed to be heard this much. It just really steamrolled out of control. That’s why I had to apologize.”
Greer’s father is regarded as a major UK booster and his family has numerous season tickets to UK basketball and football.
“We have a close relationship with the athletics department at Kentucky. We want to stay friends and not raise a stink,” Greer said. “UK football is bigger than any fan or booster. We trust them to make the right hire.”
However, because Barnhart announced the firing of coach Joker Phillips three weeks ago via social media and with no press conference, Greer says that likely gave his comments about Petrino’s hiring more validity than they should have got.
“The thing is this hire could have a big impact on Mitch’s future. I would have thought he might want to get some people together and see what fans, boosters, ex-players want in a coach,” Greer said. “If he chooses the wrong coach, UK football could spiral downward more than ever. We don’t want that.
“I think my thing with Petrino was driven by hope and fear. Hope because a lot of fans want Petrino and were hoping it was true. Fear was driven by people scared that Mitch is not going to make the right choice and he will hire the wrong guy. It was like people thought if they helped steamroll this Petrino news it might actually come true. But trust me, I never imagined it would become the huge deal it was.”