Henley, an All-SEC tailback on Auburn's 1972 team, played football with Pat Sullivan and Mac Crawford, two of the three former Tigers who are advising Athletic Director Jay Jacobs and Auburn University President Dr. Jay Gouge on who should replace Gene Chizik as head coach. Bo Jackson is the other former Tiger player on the committee. Jackson and Sullivan are two of Auburn's three Heisman Trophy winners.
"Bobby Petrino is a proven, highly successful football coach and is the right man for the job at Auburn at this time," Henley said. "He is an elite level coach.
"Just like Auburn needed a tough, hard-nosed coach to turn the program around in the 1950s when Auburn hired Coach Jordan (Ralph "Shug" Jordan) and just like in the 1980s when we hired Pat Dye as coach, Bobby Petrino has the toughness and the coaching skill to turn the Auburn program around," Henley said. "He is exactly who we need at this time."
Bobby Petrino is shown during an Arkansas game.
Henley added that his opinion is shared by other former players he has talked to as well as major donors to the program along with Tiger fans in general. "There are a lot of Auburn people who really want to see Bobby Petrino get this job," he said.
Henley noted he is well aware of the reasons that Petrino was fired as head coach at Arkansas, but said he has talked to a number of people he respects who believe that Petrino is a changed man and that he would be a model citizen as head coach of the Tigers if he gets a second chance in the SEC. "Yes, what happened with him at Arkansas was bad, but you know what I believe. I believe good can come out of bad."
The former Tiger added that he doesn't see a more impressive candidate available for the job. "The guy is an outstanding football coach," Henley added, noting that he loves Auburn and the football program and he is speaking out now because he believes it is important to hire the top candidate available.
After a successful season as Auburn's offensive coordinator in 2002, Petrino was hired by Louisville where he posted a 41-9 record as head coach of the Cardinals. Louisville played in four bowl games and posted a victory in the Orange Bowl under his guidance with a strong offense the major reason for success.
After leaving college for the NFL where he spent a partial season with the Atlanta Falcons as head coach before moving to the University of Arkansas, Petrino coached the Razorbacks for four seasons. After posting a 5-7 record in 2008 the Razorbacks finished 8-5, 10-3 and 11-2. However, he was fired prior to the 2012 season for an off-the-field incident involving a female athletic department employee he recommended hiring and directly supervised.
Auburn's job has been vacant since Chizik was fired less than 24 hours after Auburn's final game of a disappointing 3-9 season. Chizik served as head coach of the Tigers for four seasons.