Arkansas AD: John L. Smith won't return as coach

Arkansas coach John L. Smith leaves the field afer meeting LSU coach Les Miles after Arkansas' 20-13 loss to LSU in an NCAA college football game in Fayetteville, Ark., Friday, Nov. 23, 2012. (AP Photo/David Quinn)

Arkansas coach John L. Smith leaves the field afer meeting LSU coach Les Miles after Arkansas' 20-13 loss to LSU in an NCAA college football game in Fayetteville, Ark., Friday, Nov. 23, 2012. (AP Photo/David Quinn)

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long wasted little time in bringing the John L. Smith era to a close.

Long said in a statement released by the university Saturday that Smith will not return next season as the Razorbacks' coach. Long met with the interim coach a day after the Razorbacks' season-ending 20-13 loss to LSU and told him the school "would be making a change in leadership within our program."

The former Michigan State and Louisville coach was hired away from Weber State in April to replace the fired Bobby Petrino and signed to a 10-month contract. Long says that once a new coach is hired Smith will be reassigned as a consultant through the end of his deal on Feb. 23, 2013.

"I have great respect for coach Smith, and I thank him for the sincere commitment he has shown our program," Long said. "He made a difficult decision in uncertain times to return from his alma mater to guide the young men in our football program, and I will always be grateful for his efforts."

Arkansas (4-8, 2-6 Southeastern Conference) began the season ranked in the top 10, openly discussing the possibility of winning an SEC and national championship, but quickly fell out of the polls after a stunning loss to Louisiana-Monroe on Sept. 8. The Razorbacks were 21-5 the last two seasons under Petrino, but their injury-depleted roster was unable to recapture that magic under Smith.

Last week's loss at Mississippi State ensured Arkansas would not return to a bowl game this season for the first time since 2008, Petrino's first season as coach. The Razorbacks stayed close with the No. 8 Tigers in their season finale on Friday before losing — finishing with the school's lowest win total since 2005.

"It's very difficult for me to believe that is not a bowl-eligible football team," LSU coach Les Miles said following the win over Arkansas. "Watching the talent there, (it's) very capable."

Long said last month that Smith was still a candidate to remain with the Razorbacks, even after an early four-game losing streak crushed the Razorbacks' preseason championship hopes. Long added that it would be apparent at the end of the season whether Smith was his choice, a question he answered Saturday.

In likely anticipation of his ouster, Smith spent much of his time following the LSU loss handing out hugs to players and reporters.

"I have enjoyed guiding this group, and I am extremely proud of how everyone in our program stuck together and showed tremendous character by competing throughout the season," Smith said in a statement. "Everyone on our staff has my appreciation as they all believed in our goals and stayed committed to the development of these young men."

Smith said prior to the Mississippi State loss that he was optimistic of returning to Arkansas, where he was hired in April — just weeks after the scandal that erupted following Petrino's motorcycle accident that involved his mistress.

The 64-year-old Smith had left the Razorbacks, where he was an assistant coach under Petrino for three seasons, just months earlier to become the head coach at his alma mater, Weber State. His welcoming and upbeat personality was a stark contrast to the monotone Petrino and was praised by Arkansas players.

They said Smith was the perfect person to replace Petrino, who was fired after it was revealed he had hired his mistress for a position in the athletic department and initially lied about her presence during their motorcycle accident.

However, Smith's tenure got off to a rocky start following his revelation to The Associated Press in July that he would likely have to file for bankruptcy following land deals gone wrong in Kentucky. He filed in September — eventually revealing $40.7 million in debt — and came under fire from Arkansas fans for that and the mounting losses.

The Razorbacks, who led the SEC in total and scoring offense last season under Petrino, were 12th out of 14 SEC teams entering this week under Smith — averaging 24.5 points. The dropoff came despite the return of senior Tyler Wilson, who was the first-team All-SEC quarterback last season.

Wilson watched Smith's eyes fill with tears earlier this week when discussing the likely end to his tenure at Arkansas, and the quarterback admitted the last six months "have been tough" following Petrino's firing. Wilson praised Smith for helping to keep the team together.

"He's always got a smile," Wilson said. "Whether he's feeling it deep down in there or not, it's the way he expresses himself. And, you know, it touches everybody."

Long's next step becomes finding a new head coach to build on the recent success at the school. Long said all assistant coaches have the option to remain a part of the football staff pending the hiring of a new coach.

Whoever takes over will inherit a program that earned its first BCS berth two years ago in the Sugar Bowl. Arkansas also won the Cotton Bowl last season and finished ranked No. 5.

"Our new coach will be an individual who shares the passion for success our fans do, and who is willing to work relentlessly to achieve our goals," Long said.

  • Discuss
  • Print

Related Topics

Comments » 13

UTKin1992 writes:

Uhhh, wasn't THAT the agreement in the first place? That he would be interim HC? Plus, didn't U of Arkansas officiallyoffer Gruden the job about a week ago so wouldn't that indicate JLS ain't coming back? Dumb@ss journalists.

SignalMtnVol writes:

Wow! Didn't see that coming! (/off sarcasm)

northfan writes:

Shocker

pcorange writes:

Let's see. Arkansas announces today that John L. Smith is effectively fired. But, didn't KNS tell us last week that Arkansas had offered their head coach job to Gruden for 6.4M a year? Just shows you can believe nothing you hear only half what you see.

formerflgranny writes:

What? They are letting this guy go, he WON 4 games what more do you want?

vq4nfo writes:

2 wins in the SEC, they should have given him an extention and a new $5M contract.

Hart needs to add him to the list.

cltvol writes:

hey,,anybody hear about the Hindnenburg. Really big balloon. It crashed!

peerlessvolfan writes:

I could've saved Arkansas a lot of trouble by telling them not to hire John L. He was an odd man for a coach when he was at Michigan State and did not do well in E. Lansing. So this does not surprise me at all.

govols0463 writes:

in response to formerflgranny:

What? They are letting this guy go, he WON 4 games what more do you want?

I know, right? I bet their blog isn't full of Razorback fans saying "oh, it was the mess that was created by Houston Nutt and then on to Bobby Petrino" or "just give him time...nevermind the 4-8 record. He'll turn it around."

I give Arkansas credit. They hired whoever was desperate enough to take it and told him "don't get used to it Bud. It's a 1 year position." Now they can go find their coach. No buyout or anything else. We, on the other hand, hand 10 million dollars to an idiot that has never won a thing and not only allow him to make a mess for one year, but we allow it to go on for 3 years. I applaud Arkansas for getting it right and learning from mistakes of other idiots.

licknpromise777#651578 writes:

Not sure many coaches could have fixed that mess..Who would ever believe that Knile Davis would go from all SEC to 3rd string nobody! Hog defense never showed up till they played LSU..Look for the new coach to be named very shortly cause they have been looking on the hush, hush since game one

volsfaithful writes:

Had Arkansas hired Fulmer they would have faired much better. They had talent and wasted it. Hmmmmm. Sounds familiar.

SummittsCourt writes:

in response to govols0463:

I know, right? I bet their blog isn't full of Razorback fans saying "oh, it was the mess that was created by Houston Nutt and then on to Bobby Petrino" or "just give him time...nevermind the 4-8 record. He'll turn it around."

I give Arkansas credit. They hired whoever was desperate enough to take it and told him "don't get used to it Bud. It's a 1 year position." Now they can go find their coach. No buyout or anything else. We, on the other hand, hand 10 million dollars to an idiot that has never won a thing and not only allow him to make a mess for one year, but we allow it to go on for 3 years. I applaud Arkansas for getting it right and learning from mistakes of other idiots.

Give it a rest. Remember, Coach Dooley WAS THE ONLY ONE who wanted the JOB at the time.

BTW, since you are so special how about apply for the opening at UT.

shipperman#280095 writes:

in response to SummittsCourt:

Give it a rest. Remember, Coach Dooley WAS THE ONLY ONE who wanted the JOB at the time.

BTW, since you are so special how about apply for the opening at UT.

You must get your knowledge from Jimmy Hyams. Just like you he thinks he knows everything but is as full of phooey as you. Mike Hamilton passed over Kevin Sumlin and Al Golden in order to hire Dooley. How did that work out? And those are facts I know, not guesses

Want to participate in the conversation? Become a subscriber today. Subscribers can read and comment on any story, anytime. Non-subscribers will only be able to view comments on select stories.

Features