One day after being approved for a 10-month contract worth $850,000, John L. Smith was introduced as Arkansas’ new head coach.
For 2012 only.
As many have opined, John included, this is about as unorthodox as it gets when it comes to coaching hires. Forget that Weber State is a lower division job for a minute — not to mention Smith’s alma mater — there aren’t too many instances that come to mind when you try to remember the time that one head coach willingly left a program for a 10-month contract and no (public) guarantee of future employment beyond the length of said contract.
“This search was especially [unique]” Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long said today at Smith’s introductory press conference.
I’d say. Long added that having Smith in place this year will allow Arkansas ample time to conduct a thorough coaching search for the long-term future of the program. And, to top it all off, Smith apparently approached Long on the advice of his wife about the opportunity to act as a one-year head coach, not the other way around.
You can color me skeptical regarding who approached whom, by the way.
That’s not to say a one-year deal is a bad opportunity for Smith. After all, the term “interim” could be removed from his title if things go well this year. “We’ll have to wait and see,” Smith said about his chances of being UA’s long-term coach. “Only the season is going to dictate that.”
Even if Arkansas goes in another direction following the end of the 2012-13 season, a successful stint with the Razorbacks could launch Smith back into the coaching carousel of major college football, or maybe he lands a decent non-AQ gig. Smith’s contract also says he can be moved into a non-coaching administrative role with the program.
“You’ve done this your entire life,” Smith’s wife, Diana, told him. “This may be the only chance you have left. You’re going back.”
But there’s a part of me that just can’t grasp that Smith would agree to a job as Arkansas’ substitute teacher without some backchannel assurance from Long that he would, at the very least, be a serious contender for it beyond this year. And therein lies the issue: John L. Smith shouldn’t be the long-term solution.
Then again, this whole process has been a 180 from the traditional coaching hire where suddenly contract work has a more short-term meaning. “No one could have foreseen this happening,” Smith said.
In following a coach notorious for lies, truer words were never spoken.
(photo courtesy of Arkansas athletic department)