Former Petrino Assistant John L. Smith To Return To Arkansas As Coach

by Chris Bahn  on Monday, Apr. 23, 2012 9:51 pm  

John L. Smith (Photo by University of Arkansas)

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Options for filling the head coaching vacancy at Arkansas included going with an outsider or naming somebody from within the existing staff.

Arkansas found a coach Monday that nearly satisfied both options.

Former Razorback assistant John L. Smith was announced as the successor to Bobby Petrino for the season, ending a nearly two-week search for a replacement. Smith agreed to a 10-month contract worth $850,000.

Smith, 63, was hired just a little more than four months ago at Weber State after spending three seasons at Arkansas under Petrino. Smith earned $235,000 last season as the special teams coordinator and inside linebackers coach for the Razorbacks. According to the Salt Lake City Tribute Smith was set to earn, $130,00 annually plus incentives at Weber State.

"I am tremendously excited to have this special opportunity to return to Arkansas and lead the Razorback football program,” said Smith, who will be formally announced during a Tuesday press conference. Smith’s duties will include overseeing a staff that features eight coaches he has worked with previously.

Smith agreed to a deal that gives him essentially no control over personnel decisions. Any staff moves have to be signed off on by Athletic Director Jeff Long and Smith can be reassigned at any point during his 10 months at Arkansas.

With Smith in place, Long now has the summer and all of the season to look for a permanent replacement. Meanwhile, Smith and the Razorbacks can work toward their considerable goals for 2012. Arkansas was hoping to be in the national championship hunt before Petrino was fired.

Smith is 132-86 entering his 19th season as a head coach. He was 41-21 at Louisville where he mentored Petrino, the man he is replacing. Smith left Louisville for Michigan State where he was 22-26 and was named the Big Ten Coach of the Year in 2003.

"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,” Long said.

Arkansas assistants were not immediately available for comment, but Smith’s hiring was met with positive reaction from former and current players. Smith was a player favorite for his quirky personality and sense of humor, though past Razorbacks said he wasn’t afraid to use tough love as needed.

Quarterback Ryan Mallett, defensive end Jake Bequette and special teams mainstay Seth Armbrust all said they felt Smith was the best possible hire given the circumstances. Bequette called Smith, “tough, but fair.”

“He’s a good hire for the year,” Mallett told

Current Razorbacks learned of the decision during a 4 p.m. team meeting. While players were off limits to media following the gathering at the Broyles Center, their smiles and Twitter profiles seemed to indicate the hire was well received.



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