Arkansas football: John L. Smith’s motives clear
John L. Smith saw his big chance and jumped at it. The Associated Press reports that Smith will be named the interim coach at Arkansas, 139 days after Smith left the Ozarks to become head coach at his alma mater, Weber State.
We’ve seen head coaches fired a few days or a few weeks or even a few months into their new job (Michael Haywood at Pitt; Mike Price at Alabama). We’ve seen head coaches change their mind after a few days on their new job (Glen Mason at Georgia). And we’ve probably seen a head coach quit after going through spring practice, like Smith just did. But I don’t remember it.
It’s obvious what motivates Smith. A coach who did a decent job at Louisville but was fired from Michigan State after four seasons and a 22-26 record now gets another chance to win big. Smith spent the past three seasons as Bobby Petrino’s special teams coordinator at Arkansas. He took the Weber State job on Dec. 6. No one cares about Weber State football, except I assume Weber State football players, who feel no less deserted than the players at bigger schools who are left behind by vagabond coaches.
When Petrino was fired two weeks ago for indiscretions with a mistress, including hiring her to the football operations staff, the Hogs needed a coach. Athletic director Jeff Long’s options were clear: 1) stage an all-out search and start over, which would be best, probably, for Arkansas long-term but could disrupt what appears to be a very promising 2012 season; 2) hire an interim coach from within the staff, which would maintain continuity but could be problematic if the Razorbacks win big and pressure builds to retain the interim head coach; 3) hire an interim coach from outside the staff.
Long chose the combination of 2 and 3. Smith was with the Razorbacks for three years, until December. The staff and players know him well. But the same potential problem can arise, if Arkansas has a big season. If the Razorbacks get to double-digit victories again, make the top-10 again, or even win the SEC West Division, Smith will get much credit. Lots of momentum will be rolling for Arkansas to give Smith the job permanently.
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