Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - It's ironic that John L. Smith has
succeeded Bobby Petrino as Arkansas' interim football coach for the 2012
Before Petrino was fired as the Razorbacks' head coach earlier this month for
failing to disclose his affair with a woman he later hired as his assistant,
he was best known for quitting on the Atlanta Falcons with three games left in
the 2007 season to take the Arkansas job.
Many fans of Weber State football might consider that more honorable than
Monday's surprising announcement that Smith had decided to leave the Big Sky
Conference program just four and a half months after being hired as head
coach, and without coaching a game, to take over at Arkansas.
It's an odd scenario that only those involved in the discussions knew was in
the works. The 63-year-old Smith, nearly a 40-year veteran on the sidelines,
including head coaching stints at Idaho (1989-1994), Utah State (1995-1997),
Louisville (1998-2002) and Michigan State (2003-06), had worked under Petrino
as a Razorbacks assistant the last three seasons - the fourth school at which
they had worked together.
That Smith was being considered as Petrino's replacement was kept quiet while
Arkansas flirted with other coaches. His decision enters some dicey territory
considering Weber State is his alma mater and he had seemingly returned there
for the final job of his career.
Should that tie have been too strong for him to quickly bolt? The court of
public opinion will be varied, but no doubt many at Weber State will say it
should have been too strong.
Jerry Bovee, Weber State's athletic director, reacted with disappointment
Monday morning on Twitter with the following comment: "Wow, just when you
think the pieces to the puzzle are all in place, something big happens to
create chaos and the picture changes. Ouch!"
Later in a formal announcement through the school, Bovee said, "We knew when
we hired John L. as our head football coach that we were getting a high-
profile coach that we felt would move our program forward. Obviously, the
timing of this announcement is problematic but at this point we are going to
move forward in making decisions that are in the best interest of our
Clearly, Smith leaves a trail of disappointment in Ogden, Utah. A former
linebacker and quarterback for Weber State before he graduated in 1972, he
said at his introductory news conference in early December that "Loyalty is
No. 1" with his coaching philosophy.
Loyalty, obviously, comes with a price tag. For Smith, he will be paid
$850,000 over the next 10 months, plus incentives, to guide Arkansas through a
season in which the Razorbacks could be one of the nation's best teams again.
It's more than what he would have made at Weber State, and he surely hopes to
turn the interim title at Arkansas into a permanent one with a banner season.
But should Smith's word have meant more than dollars? His reputation already
had a strike against it when, as the Louisville head coach in 2002 he revealed
to his players at halftime of the GMAC Bowl that he would be leaving afterward
to take the Michigan State head coaching job.
Smith will be formerly introduced as Arkansas' new leader at an on-campus news
conference on Tuesday. Meanwhile, Weber State will continue to pick up the
pieces from a coaching hire its officials now wish they hadn't entered into
with John L. Smith.
The Sports Network