Petrino

Paul Petrino speaks with officials after disagreeing with a call during Idaho's Nov. 6 Big Sky Conference game against Southern Utah at the Kibbie Dome. Petrino was fired with one year left on his contract Thursday.

It's been almost three days since the Idaho athletic department decided to fire football coach Paul Petrino, and the reaction to the dismissal has been one of sadness for the players, but maybe a sigh of relief for the fan base.

Petrino, who attempted to shepherd the Vandals not only through its dropdown from the Football Bowl Subdivision to the Football Championship Subdivision but also through a pandemic for the past year-and-a-half, was let go on Thursday. He was allowed to coach Saturday's regular-season finale at Idaho State, and the Vandals sent him off a winner, 14-0.

The final ledger on Petrino's nine-year career in Moscow will read like this: 34-66 overall, one bowl victory, no conference championships. But how will he be remembered in the history books?

Mark Boatman, who is the former president and current Lewiston coordinator for the Vandal Scholarship Fund, said while he didn't have many encounters with Petrino, found the former coach to be a good man.

"I think he did a great job of working with young men, and having young men that developed both academically as well as athletically, and he treated our son very well," said Boatman, whose son, Alex, played for Petrino from 2014-18 and was the long snapper in the 2018 season.

Some fans agreed with the decision to part ways.

"Great day to be a Vandal!," one tweeted.

Another tweeted, "Christmas miracle came in November."

Current and former players within the program took to social media to disagree with the dismissal.

Senior quarterback Mike Beaudry said Petrino re-ignited his passion for the sport.

"Few people see the work this man put in for this team, and even fewer appreciate it," Beaudry said on Twitter on Friday. "I was not at Idaho for a long time, but to put it simply: best coach I’ve ever had. Thank you Coach Petrino for changing my life and bringing back my love for this game."

Former standout kicker Austin Rehkow couldn't believe the hatred flowing because of the firing.

"Seeing a lot of cheers over this which is disheartening," Rehkow said on Twitter. "…say what you want about his record but he never cheated the Vandals of his time, energy or effort. Please just remember the human side of things. Instead of cheering his firing, be thankful he gave his all to the Vandals."

Missouri graduate assistant coach Matt Linehan, a former UI quarterback, tweeted a picture of him running off the field with Petrino there waiting and the caption, "Thank you for believing in me."

Petrino seemingly fostered a family-oriented enviroment. A lot of his teams were known for having multiple sets of brothers on them. Also, he demanded his players get an education in the classroom.

The Vandals were under Level 1 penalties with a practice reduction as of the 2012-13 school year with a single-year APR of 838. It rose significant in each of his first four seasons to a one-year high of 970 in the 2016-17 academic year. By the time the last report was issued for the 2018-19 school year, Idaho was up to a five-year average of 957, which was just above the average for an FCS school and just below the overall average of 960 for all Division I school. The single-year APR for the Vandals in 2018-19 was at 933.

But the bottom line is winning, and he just didn't do enough of that.

"What's obvious on its face is we haven't had winning seasons," said Brad Rice, the former Lewiston High School standout and UI linebacker who now is a senior vice president at D.A. Davidson & Co. and the Lewiston school board president. "One winning season out of nine years. It was almost like the writing was on the wall."

The next question is: who becomes Idaho's next coach? You've got to have someone who has the ability to keep the program's academic progress on the upward trajectory, the abillity to recruit talented players and keep them, and produce a winning product.

Some will have their favorites, some will want to continue with the trend of hiring someone with ties to the program. Some might think it would be better to have an outsider's prospective and wipe the slate clean.

All want to see an exciting product on the field, a successful one in the classroom, and more fans in the stands at the Kibbie Dome.

"There's a lot of directions you can go," Rice said. "The institution, the university, it means a lot more to me than just the football program. First and foremost, I want to hire someone that grows to love the institution, and that doesn't necessarily mean that person has to have had a connection. And a leader, and to me, they've got to be of great character."

Walden may be reached at (208) 848-2258, dwalden@lmtribune.com, or on Twitter @waldo9939.