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Baylor hires LSU’s defensive coordinator as head coach

By Stephen Hawkins

AP Sports Writer

Baylor hired LSU defensive coordinator Dave Aranda as its new head coach Thursday, three days after the Tigers completed their undefeated national championship.

Aranda, a head coach for the first time, takes over a Big 12 program in much better shape than it was when Matt Rhule got there more than three years ago.

“I’m excited to get started as a Baylor Bear. From the outside looking in, I was so impressed watching Baylor play,” Aranda said in a statement that was included in Baylor’s announcement of his hire.

“Seeing the unity of the team and the togetherness of their play really illustrated a strong culture,” he said. “I’m ready to touch down in Waco and get to work.”

Rhule became head coach of the NFL’s Carolina Panthers on Jan. 7, six days after the Bears finished an 11-3 season with a loss to Georgia in the Sugar Bowl. Baylor was ranked 13th in the final AP Top 25 poll.

The 43-year-old Aranda, who was the highest-paid college assistant at $2.5 million a season, was a Power Five defensive coordinator the past seven seasons. He was at Wisconsin from 2013-15 before spending four years at LSU, capped by a win over Clemson on Monday night for a 15-0 record.

“Today is an exciting day for Baylor,” athletic director Mack Rhoades said. “Dave is a special person who loves football and his student-athletes, is highly intellectual, and is a great mission fit for both Baylor athletics and the university at large.”

On the same day Aranda became Baylor’s coach, LSU passing game coordinator and wide receivers coach Joe Brady was hired as offensive coordinator for the Panthers under Rhule.

Baylor’s 11 wins were a vast improvement from the 11 losses in Rhule’s debut two seasons earlier, after he arrived from Temple to a depleted roster and turmoil in the wake of the sprawling sexual assault scandal at the private Baptist school that led to the firing of two-time Big 12 champion coach Art Briles.

Aranda began his college coaching career in the Big 12 as a graduate assistant at Texas Tech from 1999-2001, and Briles was an assistant there two of those seasons. Aranda was linebackers coach at Houston from 2003-04 when Briles became head coach there.

Rhule was the Big 12 coach of the year this season, when the Bears played in the league’s championship game for the first time. The Big 12 wasn’t playing championship games when Baylor won the conference in 2013 and 2014.

After Briles was fired, Baylor started 6-0 under interim coach Jim Grobe in 2016 before losing 17 of its next 19 games. That included a six-game losing streak before a Cactus Bowl victory to end Grobe’s stint, and a 1-11 record in Rhule’s debut season.

Baylor improved to 7-6 with a bowl win in 2018, then started 9-0 this season before a 34-31 home loss to Oklahoma, which also beat the Bears in the Big 12 title game.

Rhoades last week said Rhule’s time at Baylor “marks one of the greatest turnarounds in college football history.”

New York native Rhule had no Texas ties when he got to Texas. California native Aranda started his coaching career with those five years in Texas before going back to his alma mater, California Lutheran, where one of his college roommates was Tom Herman — now the coach at Texas, and who was hired as Houston’s coach when Rhoades was the AD there.

Aranda then had stops at Division II school Delta State in Mississippi, Southern Utah, Hawaii, Utah State and Wisconsin before his four seasons in the Southeastern Conference.

•••

PETRINO BACK IN GAME, SAYS HE KNEW HE WOULDN’T STAY RETIRED

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (AP) — Bobby Petrino is glad to have a job again, even if it’s at one of the bottom programs in the second tier of college football.

“I knew I wasn’t going to stay retired,” Petrino said Thursday at his introductory news conference at Missouri State. “It was just a temporary retirement.”

Petrino, 58, had been out of the game since his November 2018 firing at Louisville. He landed at the Springfield, Missouri, school largely because of his relationship with athletic director Kyle Moats. The two worked at Louisville together in 2006-07.

Moats said Petrino contacted him about the job after Dave Steckel was fired last week after winning 13 games in five seasons for the Bears of the Football Championship Subdivision. School president Clif Smart signed off on the hiring.

“With a 119-56 record as a head coach at three FBS schools, not only have we hired the best coach available, we have hired one of the best offensive coaches in the history of the game,” Smart said. “We’ve also hired someone who will run a clean program, be compliant in all aspects of the NCAA and graduate his student athletes. That’s been his history.”

Other parts of Petrino’s history aren’t so flattering. He coached the Atlanta Falcons for 13 games in 2007 before abruptly resigning — leaving a note to the players in the locker room — to return to college coaching at Arkansas.

Petrino led the Razorbacks to the Sugar Bowl following the 2010 season and a No. 5 final ranking the following season, when the Razorbacks won 11 games.

A few months after that season ended, Petrino was injured in a motorcycle accident that exposed an extra-marital affair with an athletic department employee. Petrino originally said he was riding alone but later revealed that the woman was a passenger, and that they were involved in a relationship. Petrino was fired.

“One of the things I’m going to be able to teach our players is you’r always going to have obstacles to overcome,” Petrino said. “You’re always going to have to work hard on a daily basis. Certainly l made a mistake when I was at the University of Arkansas. I’m fortunate enough to have a great wife and great family and stay together and work forward. That’s what we did.”

Petrino resurfaced in 2012 at Western Kentucky, spending one season there before returning to Louisville for the 2014 season. Lamar Jackson, now the star quarterback for the Baltimore Ravens, won the Heisman Trophy in 2016. But the Cardinals struggled after Jackson’s departure, and Petrino was let go in 2018.

Missouri State was just 13-42 under Steckel. The Bears were 1-10 in 2019.

Petrino said he is fully committed to Missouri State.

“I’m kind of getting on the other side of the hill a little bit,” he said. “I feel great, though, I feel very young, I feel very energized and this is the job that I want.

“Like I told Kyle, if you’re going to write a script, write it like this: I come here, be very successful, and I decide 8-10 years from now whether I still want to coach football with a national championship in my pocket. That’s what I want to see happen.”

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More AP college football: https://apnews.com/APTop25CollegeFootballPoll and https://apnews.com/Collegefootball and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25

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This version corrects spelling of Missouri State president Clif Smart.

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