June 18, 2012
John L. Smith, before & after
Not counting the brief stint at Weber State where he never coached a game, this 10-month contract John L. Smith has signed at Arkansas makes for his fifth stop as a head coach.
Where will Smith take this Arkansas program that finished 11-2 last season? He took an Idaho team that went 7-1 in conference the year before and led them to 8-0 the following season. Smith is taking over a program that is built for success. Smith did not step into great situations in his other three jobs at Utah State, Louisville and Michigan State. Until now, every coach he took over for was only at the school for three years. Bobby Petrino was at Arkansas for four seasons.
In 1989, Smith took over for Keith Gilbertson, who left Idaho to take the head coaching job at Cal. Gilbertson enjoyed success at Idaho, going 8-4 (5-2), 9-3 (7-1) and 11-2 (7-1) in three seasons. Smith enjoyed similar success having gone 9-3 (8-0), 9-4 (6-2), 6-5 (4-4), 9-2 (6-1), 11-3 (5-2) and 9-3 (5-2) before leaving for Utah State. The man who took over for Smith, Chris Tormey, went 6-5 (3-2), 5-6 (2-3), 9-3 (5-1) and then 7-4 (4-2) before accepting the head job at Nevada.
In 1995, Smith took over for Charlie Weatherbie at Utah State, who left the Aggies for Navy following three years of going 5-6, 7-5 and 3-8 in 1994. Weatherbie did a decent job at Utah State, but it certainly was not like they were 'fixed.' Smith went 4-7, 6-5 and 6-6. To demonstrate how good that was for Utah State, the 3-8 mark earned Weatherbie the head job at Navy, and Smith's 16-18 record there earned him the head job at Louisville. Smith's successor at Utah State, Dave Arslanian, was fired after just two seasons when he went 3-8 and 4-7 in back-to-back seasons.
At Louisville, Smith took over for Ron Cooper. Cooper led the Cardinals to a 7-4 record in 1995 and then went 5-6 in 1996 and was fired after three seasons when he went 1-10 in 1997. Smith took over and led Louisville to records of 7-5 (4-2), 7-5 (4-2), 9-3 (6-1), 11-2 (6-1) and 7-6 (5-3). After he departed for Michigan State, Bobby Petrino took over and enjoyed four successful seasons in going 9-4 (5-3), 11-1 (8-0), 9-3 (5-2) and 12-1 (6-1).
Smith took over for Bobby Williams at Michigan State, who was also fired after three seasons (nine games into his final year) after going 3-6, including 1-4 in conference. Nick Saban had previously led the Spartans to a 10-win season in 1999 but the team declined from there under Williams' watch. Smith took over and led the Spartans to an 8-5 (5-3) mark. To show how bad things were, that record earned him Big 10 Coach of the Year. The Spartans struggled the following three years and Smith was fired after going 4-8 (1-7). Mark Dantonio took over and went 7-6, 9-4, 6-7, 11-2 and 11-3 over the next five years at MSU.
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