Hall of Fame Coach 'Putter' Bob Petrino Sr., 81

Photo of Coach 'Putter' Bob Petrino Sr., 81

HELENA, Mont. – Hall of Fame Coach Bob “Putter” Petrino Sr. passed away Thursday, July 26, at his home in Helena. He was 81.

Petrino served as the head coach of the Fighting Saints for 28 years, beginning in 1971. He guided the Saints to a 163-90-2 record with a .644 winning percentage, winning 17 Frontier Conference Championships and earning bids to the NAIA Playoffs nine times.

He tallied four undefeated regular seasons. He was the winningest coach in Carroll history at the time of his retirement. He ranks 24th all-time in wins in NAIA history. Of his 28 seasons at Carroll, he carried winning records in 24 of them.

He mentored 17 All-Americans and was named the Frontier Conference Coach of the Year 13 times.

“Coach Petrino meant a lot to Carroll and to the Helena community with his leadership qualities and with his commitment to athletics and football,” Carroll head football coach Mike Van Diest said. “He had a great career in his 28 years here. Our staff is blessed that we are able to follow in his footsteps and build on the foundation that he had built with Carroll football.”

His leadership on the field was impressive, but he was also a leader among the NAIA. He helped establish a more equitable system for NAIA post-season inclusion that would help the Fighting Saints become a perennial national power.

The culture instilled by Petrino had an impact across the athletic department and campus. The Saints won the 14th Frontier Conference Bandy All-Sports Award this year, the first five honors were won during Petrino’s tenure, including four of Petrino’s last five years at Carroll.

“When you look at what he established at Carroll, it didn’t stop with the football field,” Carroll Director of Athletic Facilities and former assistant football coach Steve Jones said. “He impacted everyone. He made every team better and set the standard and attitude that the rest of the teams lived up to. He put a lot of pride in the purple and gold. I coached with him for 14 seasons and he made me a better coach and a better person.”

His legacy also continues with his family. His sons Bobby and Paul both played and coached under Bob Sr. and now coach at the Division I level, Bobby at Louisville and Paul at Idaho. His son-in-law Mark Samson has been a mainstay in the Frontier Conference and in high schools around Montana. Bob’s nephew Jason was a member of Bob’s last team at Carroll and is now the head coach at Rocky Mountain. Other coaches who worked under Petrino coached at every level from high school through every division of college football and the NFL.

“The Petrino family is big in college football and the legacy that he left is unparalleled,” Van Diest said. “Football is important in the state of Montana, it is very important in the city of Helena, especially here at Carroll College. He was a great man that led a great family. I’m sure his former players and coaches are having a tough time with this today.”

He is a member of five Hall of Fames, including the NAIA National Hall of Fame, the Montana Coaches Hall of Fame, the Butte Athletic Hall of Fame, the Carroll College Hall of Fame and the Helena Sports Hall of Fame.

Prior to his time at Carroll, he coached at Grass Range, Moore, Harlowton and Butte Central before entering the college ranks. He was born in Butte and attended Butte Central before playing football at Montana Western.

Funeral service information:

  • Vigil: Monday, July 30, 2018 at 7:30 p.m., Carroll College PE Center
  • Funeral Mass: Tuesday, July 31 at 10:00 a.m., Cathedral of St. Helena

Memorial Gifts

The family has asked that all memorial gifts and donations be given to the Carroll College football team at:

Carroll College
Attn: Office of Institutional Advancement
1601 N. Benton Ave.
Helena, MT 59625

Questions? Please contact Dan Minor at (406) 447-5528 or dminor@carroll.edu.