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April 23, 2012
Smith to return as interim
John L. Smith Discussion
Arkansas will formally introduce the interim head coaching hire of former Weber State head coach and former Arkansas assistant John L. Smith at a 2 p.m. press conference on Tuesday.
Smith will get a 10-month contract as a search for a long-term head coach is made.
"I am tremendously excited to have this special opportunity to return to Arkansas and lead the Razorback football program," Smith stated. "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."
The UA release on Smith stated:
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 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.
Smith, 63, is the former head coach at Michigan State (2003-06), Louisville (1998-2002), Utah State (1995-97) and Idaho (1989-94) and has compiled a head coaching record of 132-86 (60.6 percent).
Smith served as Arkansas outside linebackers coach and special teams coach the past three seasons before leaving this past December to take over Weber State, his alma mater. At Arkansas last season, Smith put together arguably the most dominating special teams unit in school history.
In his last head job at Michigan State, Smith was fired after four years of going 22-26, including 4-8 his last season. The Spartans finished 8-5 (5-3) his first year as he was named Big 10 Coach of the Year.
Smith had a better showing in his five seasons at then-Conference USA member Louisville as the Cardinals went 41-21 in his time there, including an 11-2 (6-1) record in 2001 and a 9-3 (6-1) record in 2000.
He did not have a spectacular record at Big West member Utah State, especially when they faced bigger programs, going just 16-18 overall, but he dominated in the conference with a 12-4 record.
He succeeded at a high level at Idaho in the Big Sky Conference with a 53-20 (34-11) record in six seasons., winning nine more games in five of those seasons. His best year there was 1993 when the Vandals went 11-3 overall.
While some Razorback fans were hoping for a big-name hire, naming Smith as interim head coach gives the Hogs approximately seven months to not only find the best long-term candidate out there but to also stay ahead of other programs who might be looking for a head coach after the season. In a similar situation, Ohio State find the future of their program, Urban Meyer and announced his hire on Nov. 28 of last year. This gave Meyer two months to assemble the nation's No. 4 ranked recruiting class for the Buckeyes.
Most media members came to the conclusion that Arkansas would promote from within an interim coach, but Smith's hire makes sense because Paul Petrino can still coordinate the offense, Paul Haynes can still coordinate the defense and all the other assistants can remain in their regular roles for at least the remainder of the year as the Razorbacks are expected to field one of the top teams in the country in 2012.
Smith is the only interim option with head coaching experience who could keep the staff and team together during a time when the program was in flux following the firing of Bobby Petrino nearly two weeks ago. In addition, the player response has been impressive, and it is clear the players will love to play for Smith.
Arkansas AD Jeff Long comments
"I am extremely pleased to welcome Coach John L. Smith back to the Razorback program as our new head football coach," Long stated in a release. "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."