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Arkansas hires Smith as head coach

By Matt Jones

This article was originally published April 23, 2012 at 2:09 p.m. Updated April 23, 2012 at 4:15 p.m.


John L. Smith was Arkansas' special teams coordinator/outside linebackers coach from 2009-11.

Download Smith's agreement letter


  • Playing career: Weber State, quarterback, linebacker, 1968-71
  • Weber State, graduate assistant, 1971
  • Montana, assistant, 1972-76
  • Nevada, defensive coordinator, 1977-81
  • Idaho, defensive coordinator, 1982-85
  • Wyoming, defensive coordinator, 1986
  • Washington State, defensive coordinator, 1987-88
  • Idaho, head coach, 1989-94
  • Utah State, head coach, 1995-97
  • Louisville, head coach, 1998-2002
  • Michigan State, head coach, 2003-2006
  • Arkansas, special teams coordinator, 2009-11
  • Weber State, head coach, 2012

— Arkansas has hired John L. Smith as its new interim head football coach, the school announced Monday.

Smith agreed to a 10-month deal worth $850,000. He will be introduced at a 2 p.m. press conference on Tuesday.

Smith, 63, was hired as head coach at his alma mater Weber State in December after spending three seasons as special teams coach for the Razorbacks. His most previous head coaching stints came at Louisville (1998-2002) and Michigan State (2003-06).

“I am tremendously excited to have this special opportunity to return to Arkansas and lead the Razorback football program,” Smith said in a release announcing the hire. “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 five 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 on as we work to achieve our goals for 2012."

Smith has knowledge of the Razorbacks' players and staff. Eight of Arkansas' nine full-time assistant coaches have worked with Smith in the past. UA athletics director Jeff Long said Saturday continuity for the current team would be important when deciding on an interim coach.

In 18 seasons as a head coach, Smith has a 132-86 record.

“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," Long said. "He has been a part of the record-breaking success we have enjoyed in the past few seasons."

Weber State athletics director Jerry Bovee said the decision for Smith to leave the school was surprising.

“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”, Bovee said. “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 program.”

Arkansas fired Bobby Petrino on April 10 after it was discovered he hired Jessica Dorrell to a football staff position without disclosing a previous extramarital relationship between the two. Petrino went 34-17 in four seasons at Arkansas, winning 21 games in his last two seasons.

Petrino was an offensive coordinator for Smith at Louisville and took over as head coach there when Smith left for Michigan State following the 2002 season.

Read tomorrow's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for full details.

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HawgFan says... April 23, 2012 at 2:43 p.m.

Just as long as he doesn't take over Special Teams again!!!

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megabull says... April 23, 2012 at 2:43 p.m.


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SirGolfsalot says... April 23, 2012 at 2:48 p.m.


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RSBROWN says... April 23, 2012 at 2:53 p.m.


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tppt2aolcom says... April 23, 2012 at 2:58 p.m.

Long knew the avaiable coaching pool wasn't very deep and he needed to find someone quick. I would have selected Paul Petrino at least for the short-term. Living in Illinois as I do now, I know a lot of people were unhappy that Paul Petrino resigned after Zook was fired from the U of I. I hope I am wrong, but this is not a really great selection.

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CarolinaArkie says... April 23, 2012 at 3:11 p.m.

My vote still goes to Tim Horton who has earned a shot at the top !!

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CarolinaArkie says... April 23, 2012 at 3:13 p.m.

My vote still goes to Tim Horton who has earned a shot at the top spot.

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tnew says... April 23, 2012 at 3:15 p.m.

Got to say, I could hardly be less disappointed in this move. I know the pool was shallow but we have more appealing coaches on staff than this. To get an older stop gap coach is understandable. I just wish long would've posessed enough influence amongst the coaching community to come up with better than this. This had better be a one year deal then we must back up the brinks truck and hire a coach to allow us to maintain significance in the sec. Could not be more upset at petrino for putting hog nation through this

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HawgFan says... April 23, 2012 at 3:18 p.m.

It's a 10 month contract.

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ORANGEBEACHHOG says... April 23, 2012 at 3:30 p.m.

Cannot understand him leaving Weber State, his alma mater,to come back for a 10 month contract. There has to be more to this story than we are hearing right now.

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