Less than two weeks after Head Razorback Football Coach Bobby Petrino was fired for lying to a lot of people about a lot of things, the University of Arkansas has hired former Razorback assistant John L. Smith to be the new head Hog.
Jeff Long, UA vice chancellor and director of athletics, made the announcement in a Monday (April 23) statement, with a press conference planned for Tuesday (April 24) at 2 p.m.
Smith returns to Arkansas where he spent the last three seasons as special teams coordinator and outside linebackers coach. In December of 2011, he accepted the head coaching position at Weber State.
“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.”
However, Smith’s job is not necessarily a long-term deal.
According to the UA, Smith, 63, signed a 10-month letter of agreement with a compensation package of $850,000. Smith will also be eligible for performance and academic achievement incentives.
Long said the UA will “continue to evaluate the program and the head coaching position in anticipation of naming a head coach following the 2012 season.” He said the arrangement with Smith will give the UA “a timeframe that is more conducive to attracting the potential candidates expected for one of the nation’s premier football head coaching positions.”
The lengthy UA press release on the hiring including the following points about Smith.
• Smith enters his 40th year of coaching and his 19th as a head coach.
• Arkansas is Smith’s sixth head coaching position following stints at Idaho, Utah State, Louisville, Michigan State and most recently at his alma mater, Weber State.
• As a head coach, Smith has a 132-86 overall record and produced six conference champions (two Conference USA, two Big West and two Big Sky). Twelve of his 18 teams participated in postseason play. Smith is one of 19 head coaches in collegiate football history to take three different schools to a bowl game.
• Smith served as the Razorbacks’ special teams coordinator and outside linebackers coach for the 2009-11 seasons before departing last December for Weber State.
“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,” Long noted in the statement. “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.”
Smith praised the “focus and character” of the players and assistant coaches through the Petrino scandal.
“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,” Smith noted.
Smith earned Big Sky Conference scholar-athlete honors in 1971-72 while playing as a linebacker and a quarterback at Weber State. He earned a bachelor’s degree in physical education with a minor in math in 1971, and a master’s of science degree in physical education from the University of Montana in 1974.
He is married to the former Diana Flora. They are parents of three children, Nicholas, Kayse and Sam.