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Razorbacks officially announce John L. Smith’s hiring

John L. Smith

Following up on reports that first surfaced this afternoon, Arkansas has officially announced the hiring of John L. Smith as the Razorbacks head coach for the 2012 season.

Smith, who is leaving his post as Weber State’s head coach after less than five months on the job, has signed a 10-month letter of agreement with a compensation package of $850,000. The agreement will also make Smith eligible for performance and academic achievement incentives.

The agreement would technically carry Smith through Signing Day next February, although it’s highly likely UA will have a permanent replacement in place by that time.  From the release:

Long announced the University of Arkansas will continue to evaluate the program and the head coaching position in anticipation of naming a head coach following the 2012 season. The current appointment will allow the program to identify a head coach for the future of the program in a timeframe that is more conducive to attracting the potential candidates expected for one of the nation’s premier football head coaching positions.

A press conference to officially introduce Smith has been scheduled for 2 p.m. CT Tuesday.

Smith had been special teams coordinator under Bobby Petrino at UA for the past three seasons, prior to leaving for Weber in early December.  In a statement from athletic director Jeff Long on Smith’s hiring, it was actually the coach who first broached the subject of taking over on an interim basis.

“I am extremely pleased to welcome Coach John L. Smith back to the Razorback program as our new head football coach,” Long said in the statement. “Coach Smith brings a wealth of football knowledge, BCS conference head coaching experience, passion for the game and a close familiarity with the current team and coaching staff. I firmly believe that his selection is in the best interests of the young men in our program and will also best serve the mission of our football program and university in achieving success on and off the field in the upcoming season and in the long term.

When Coach Smith first approached me about returning to Arkansas to serve in this position, he talked about his desire to be a part of the continued success of these student-athletes, this coaching staff and the Razorback program. He has been a part of the record-breaking success we have enjoyed in the past few seasons. Coach Smith understands the commitment our players have made to building upon that success and meeting the goals that have been set for the upcoming season. I also have a tremendous amount of confidence in our assistant coaches and believe that under Coach Smith’s leadership they will be able to continue to flourish in their current roles.”

Despite leaving his current employer with a head-coaching vacancy four months or so before the start of a new season, Smith, who had previously been a head coach at Louisville and Michigan State, expressed excitement over his return to Fayetteville.

“I am tremendously excited to have this special opportunity to return to Arkansas and lead the Razorback football program,” Smith said. “During my coaching career, I have always been dedicated to developing student-athletes to their fullest potential. In the last couple of weeks, I came to the realization I could provide guidance and stability to a program I’m extremely invested in. While at Arkansas, we worked to make the Razorbacks a top 5 team and much of the credit for that goes to the student-athletes.

“Throughout the spring, the assistant coaches and student-athletes have shown incredible focus and character, which we will use to build on as we work to achieve our goals for 2012. I want to thank President (Donald) Bobbitt, Chancellor (David) Gearhart and Jeff Long for the trust they have shown in me.”

Smith’s excitement aside, Arkansas is already being criticized for the Smith hire, but, really, what options were available to the program in mid-April? Yes, UA and Smith have taken shots — and rightly so — for the coach leaving Weber State four months or so after his hiring, but going this route is the common sense approach in what is a very difficult situation timing-wise.

Actually, it’s an outstanding move on two fronts, even if you are one of the ones who favored bringing in Phillip Fulmer as a one-year rental. One, Smith gives the Razorbacks a coach with head-coaching experience to lead them through the 2012 season. Given the timing, those types of candidates don’t exactly grow on trees.

Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, the players are very familiar with Smith, so there will be a level of comfort and stability for both parties that would not have been there if UA had gone outside the program for a hire.  Case in point: Razorbacks running back Knile Davis.

“I don’t care what anyone says. [I’]m 100% behind John L Smith,” Davis wrote on his Twitter account prior to UA’s official announcement. “I’ll play for him any day of [the] week because he’s a good man and coach 14-0 or 0-14.”

Add the familiarity and the players’ excitement over the move in with Smith’s head-coaching experience, and you have what is a solid, short-term decision for the 2012 season by Long and the UA football program.

(Photo credit: Arkansas athletic department)

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18 Responses to “Razorbacks officially announce John L. Smith’s hiring”
  1. alligatorsnapper says: Apr 23, 2012 5:40 PM

    Arkansas is making a good choice for continuity and familiarity, giving the team a coach with whom they are very familiar…as Knile Davis said, “I’ll play for him any day of [the] week because he’s a good man and coach 14-0 or 0-14.”
    That pretty much says it all.

    It could be that if Coach Smith has a good season, he has an inside track to be the next “permanent” head football coach. Congrats to Coach Smith and Arkansas in making a quick decision. Best to him and the Razorbacks, except in The Boot contest.

  2. papabush88 says: Apr 23, 2012 5:52 PM

    Trojan fan here. So much respect for Jeff Long in past few weeks. Think he’s making a good choice here. I think getting someone that can do their best coaching impression of Petrino is best choice for them at this point (just not their best impression of Petrino as a person). Wait for big name coach later.

    Good luck to the Hogs.

  3. Brian Basher says: Apr 23, 2012 5:55 PM

    Tim Brando can whine and call it a bad move or whatever.

    I think this is a great move; none of the coordinators on the Razorback staff have HC coaching experience, Coach Smith does and is a proven winner in FBS, he knows the team, they know him and would run through a wall for him.

    Thumbs up to Jeff Long for trying to make the best out of a bad situation. Tim Brando can suck it!

  4. jumbossportsblog says: Apr 23, 2012 6:00 PM

    Reblogged this on jumbossportsblog.

  5. thetooloftools says: Apr 23, 2012 6:50 PM

    This was a really smart hire. This A.D. needs to get some Love. He knew when to chop heads and now knows who can lead. However… It’s in the greatest conference in the history of college football so he better win because the SEC is a “step up or get stepped on” league.

  6. thatguywhoisactuallyamiamisportsfan says: Apr 23, 2012 6:58 PM

    DO NOT FORGET THE L WHEN YOU MENTION HIS NAME!!

  7. bunyanj says: Apr 23, 2012 7:03 PM

    You hog fans will never learn. John L. Smith is even slimier than Bobby P. After all, they both coached at Louisville, the home of low life coaches like the current BB coach Rick Pitino (caught in an exmarital affair, but not blackmailed).
    Smith’s Division 1 record is 79- 65 (55% winning tally); and that includes his best years at Louisville in the powerful Conference USA. His Big Ten record at Michigan State earned him a 5 and out after winning only one game in his final season. I don’t think the SEC programs will be worried about being out-coached by Smith. Maybe just as telling, is his Bowl Game record of 1-6, and these were not big time bowls.
    Probably the worst thing about Smith is his character. He proved at Louisville and Michigan State that he was was not a solid citizen; but a guy that Bobby P. could relate to.
    Good luck Hog fans. With a great quarterback and a super roster Knile Davis’ prediction will be closer to 0-14 than 14-0.

  8. jag9 says: Apr 23, 2012 7:27 PM

    Couldn’t agree more bunyanj. UA fired a liar and hired a bigger liar. First hand experience. Just the fact that he left his alma mater after several months as HC. Class guy. Let the BS begin.

    And NCAA….check out how his study hall tutors promote their athletes to cheat to stay eligible. Again, class guy!

    Also, watch how many kids he runs off to get a bigger signing class next year. Why do schools keep recycling trash coaches?

    He makes Urban Meyer like a saint. Ask the UF fans that Meyer constantly lied to. That’s saying something.

    Good luck Hogs, you’re gonna need it.

  9. jkaflagg says: Apr 23, 2012 7:53 PM

    Tough luck for Weber State, but they probably knew he would bolt for the first FBS job that opened up…..Probably the FCS schools are better developing head coaches at that level rather than short-term deals with FBS rejects…..

  10. thefiesty1 says: Apr 23, 2012 8:36 PM

    My question is, why he would have gone to Weber State of all places in the first place? What’s he plan to do when the Hogs hire a permanent HC after this season? Go back to his alma mater? Fat chance of that happening. One last fling and then go into retirement? Seems like a bad decision on both parts.

  11. burntorangehorn says: Apr 23, 2012 9:18 PM

    I see people saying John L. Smith is slimy, but not specific allegations. I’m not saying the allegations are wrong, but I’d like to know what the charges are.

    As for the other aspects of the hiring, Petrino followed Smith around a lot, from Idaho to Utah State (via ASU and Nevada), then to Louisville. Smith was a defensive guy, while Petrino was obviously an offensive guy. But if Long can find a diplomatic way to keep Paul Petrino in house as OC, I think that offense should be in good shape again.

    The real question is whether Paul Haynes, a highly successful DB coach at Ohio State up until now, is going to whip the defense into shape. He brings a lot of credibility that should help Arkie make inroads in both recruiting and development. He’s unquestionably an elite DB coach, but that doesn’t always translate (see: Duane Akina), so let’s see how it goes.

  12. bozosforall says: Apr 23, 2012 9:32 PM

    John L. Smith Slimy Move #1:

    Smith was hired as the head coach at Michigan State, which created controversy because Smith was hired before Louisville’s bowl game that season, and he did not inform his Louisville players of the decision until halftime of the bowl game, which they lost to Marshall.

    John L. Smith Slimy Move #2:

    Smith slapped himself in the face as a mean-spirited reference to a claim by Notre Dame head coach Charlie Weis who stated that he had been hit in the face during a sideline scrum earlier that season when his Fighting Irish played Michigan State, showing how out of control Smith’s teams are.

    John L. Smith Slimy Move #3;

    Smith had been named as head coach of his alma mater, Weber State University, after the 2011 season, but left without ever coaching a regular season game.

    Slimeball for sure.

  13. lbroberts123 says: Apr 23, 2012 10:53 PM

    I wonder if anyone informed Davis that you can’t go 0-14 in college football…

  14. sports_dude says: Apr 23, 2012 11:28 PM

    Haters gonna hate, Go Hogs!!

  15. irishdodger says: Apr 23, 2012 11:44 PM

    One thing for sure….Johnelle’s press conferences will make for great entertainment. This hiring had me feeling nostalgic, so I visited YouTube to hear the greatest CFB rant EVER as Detroit radio host Mike Valenti goes off on Sparty choking away a likely win vs Notre Dame back in ’06.

  16. bozosforall says: Apr 24, 2012 11:00 AM

    sports_dude says:
    Apr 23, 2012 11:28 PM
    Haters gonna hate, Go Hogs!!

    __
    And Hillbillies gonna date their sisters.

  17. burntorangehorn says: Apr 25, 2012 2:33 PM

    John L. Smith Slimy Move #1:

    Smith was hired as the head coach at Michigan State, which created controversy because Smith was hired before Louisville’s bowl game that season, and he did not inform his Louisville players of the decision until halftime of the bowl game, which they lost to Marshall.

    John L. Smith Slimy Move #2:

    Smith slapped himself in the face as a mean-spirited reference to a claim by Notre Dame head coach Charlie Weis who stated that he had been hit in the face during a sideline scrum earlier that season when his Fighting Irish played Michigan State, showing how out of control Smith’s teams are.

    John L. Smith Slimy Move #3;

    Smith had been named as head coach of his alma mater, Weber State University, after the 2011 season, but left without ever coaching a regular season game.
    =================================
    Move #1 wasn’t ideal, but I don’t think it’s necessarily any worse than accepting a job before a bowl game, then not telling the players until afterwards. If anything, it seems he was trying to motivate the players at halftime, which may have been misguided, but not necessarily slimy.

    I’m not sure what the problem is with move #2. So what?

    Move #3: this is a bigger issue, but if you were a pretty big fish who took a job with low pay to lead a small company, and the big firm where you’d previously been an assistant came back and asked you to lead that firm for more money, would you seriously stick with the smaller company? That might depend on whether the big firm also were to pledge to let the temporary gig serve as an audition for permanent status, but I don’t think any of us knows whether Smith received such a pledge.

    Anyway, in the grand scheme of things, those three so-called slimy moves rank pretty low compared to Urban Meyer, Lane Kiffin, Pete Carroll, Nick Saban, Les Miles, or Bobby Petrino.

  18. papabush88 says: Apr 25, 2012 2:57 PM

    @burntorangehorn:

    What was Carroll’s slimy move? And what was Urban Meyer’s? I get how people perceive Kiffin’s leaving Tennessee after one year slimy, but he was getting a job promotion. Who would turn that down?

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