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Smith out as Arkansas coach

By Matt Jones

This article was originally published November 24, 2012 at 10:35 a.m. Updated November 24, 2012 at 2:17 p.m.

nwa-mediajason-ivester-arkansas-head-coach-john-l-smith-watches-from-the-sideline-during-the-fourth-quarter-against-lsu-on-friday-nov-23-2012-at-donald-w-reynolds-razorback-stadium-in-fayetteville

NWA Media/JASON IVESTER -- Arkansas head coach John L. Smith watches from the sideline during the fourth quarter against LSU on Friday, Nov. 23, 2012, at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville.

— Arkansas fired John L. Smith as head football coach Saturday, officially indicating the Razorbacks will have a new coach in 2013.

Smith, who took the head coaching job at Weber State last December after spending three years as an Arkansas assistant coach, was hired in April to a 10-month contract when Bobby Petrino was fired for misconduct. The Razorbacks finished the season 4-8, capped by a loss to LSU on Friday.

"I have great respect for Coach Smith and I thank him for the sincere commitment he has shown our program," University of Arkansas athletics director Jeff Long said in a statement. "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.

"I would also like to express my gratitude to our assistant football coaching staff, and our support staff. They have shown remarkable professionalism and a true commitment to the student-athletes in our program. They demonstrated great character in maintaining their commitment to our program."

Smith will be allowed to remain with the program as a consultant through the duration of his contract, which expires in February. All of Arkansas' assistant coaches will have the opportunity to be retained, pending the hiring of a new coach, according to a release. Two coaches, Tim Horton and Bobby Allen, were retained when Petrino was hired following the 2007 season.

Counting Weber State, Arkansas was the sixth head coaching stop for Smith, who turned 64 last week. In 20 seasons, he has a career record of 136-96.

The Razorbacks were ranked No. 10 in the preseason and climbed as high as No. 8, but things hit bottom quickly when Arkansas lost to ULM at War Memorial Stadium in the second game of the year. The Razorbacks endured losses by a combined 100 points in their first two SEC games against Alabama and Texas A&M, and were only 2-6 in league play.

"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. "Everyone on our staff has my appreciation as they all believed in our goals and stayed committed to the development of these young men.

"I would like to thank the Razorback fans for demonstrating their support for these student-athletes and this coaching staff during a challenging time. I enjoyed every day of this experience and this profession has been and will continue to be rewarding to me. During my time here, it has been incredible to be a part of helping this program grow and I wish everyone involved nothing but success in the future.”

With Smith gone, Long will turn his attention to a coaching search that has been talk of the fan base for nearly eight months. CBSSports.com reported Saturday the new Arkansas coach will be hired within 10 days, citing sources.

Long has been tight-lipped about the search, providing few clues about potential candidates. He said during a September luncheon at the Northwest Arkansas Touchdown Club he expects the next coach to be a current head coach and never ruled out Smith as the long-term solution, though the losses on the field continued to mount.

The college football regular season ends next Saturday.

"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. "It will be someone who embraces the expectations of winning a national championship and succeeding in the classroom with discipline, honesty and integrity.

"Our new coach will embrace what this program means not just to the university, but to the entire state of Arkansas and will share the vision for the future success of Razorback Football.”

Comments on: Smith out as Arkansas coach

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RBBrittain says... November 24, 2012 at 11:37 a.m.

This should silence the "Saturday press conference = Gruden" delusions. JL needed today to officially fire JLS, so he can have the next coach ready to announce next weekend. That fits Gundy, Briles, etc. much better than Gruden or other NFL delusions.

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PCSSDGMa says... November 24, 2012 at 11:49 a.m.

While I agree and understand everyone wanting to place the blame on Petrino; I think we as fans need to hold Jeff Long accountable for hiring Smith. Like Smith, Long hasn't made the best decision this year. What if Petrino had been in an accident by himself that ended his coaching career and Long hired Smith? Who would be to blame then? It all goes back to Long the person doing the hiring. Don't get me wrong, I think Smith had no clue what he was doing, and Petrino was let power take control of his life, but in the end Long should go with Smith.

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RBBrittain says... November 24, 2012 at 11:52 a.m.

I will say this about JLS: In spite of the thankless situation he took on, he still managed a better season than Derek Dooley, Joker Phillips, or (barring a miracle in Tuscaloosa) Gene Chizik. Of course he had to be let go, but frankly only a national title run would have made that any different, and that wasn't in the cards. Don't be too mean to JLS, even in his bankruptcy (he got snookered by a Louisville booster, plain and simple); just thank him and pray JL used his time wisely to get us the right coach for 2013 & beyond.

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HotSpringsLawyer says... November 24, 2012 at 11:58 a.m.

More importantly, Long HIRED that rat Petrino. Anderson is looking like (hopefully) Long's only decent major hire.

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Jackabbott says... November 24, 2012 at 12:01 p.m.

LR1955, are you nuts? Petrino, regardless of what you think about him, did not coach the team this year. To bring you up to date, JLS and his staff did under the direction of the AD, who just received a new $1 million dollar contract and a $50k signing bonus for his encouraging results.

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RBBrittain says... November 24, 2012 at 12:02 p.m.

Folks like PCSSDGMa simply DO NOT understand how hiring college football coaches works. First of all, Petrino putting the girl on his payroll meant JL had NO choice but to fire him. Second, the ONLY time SEC-caliber coaches are available is November thru January -- NOT April. JL may not have officially called JLS "interim", but he WAS an interim till real SEC-caliber coaches were available at season's end. The only person to blame for JLS is Bobby Petrino, not Jeff Long.

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RoyDaMercer says... November 24, 2012 at 12:06 p.m.

What a shock; he did so well

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Ran2133 says... November 24, 2012 at 12:33 p.m.

All of you folks who are castigating John L. Smith really don't have a clue! Some of the decisions in games were made by other coaches on staff, which Coach Smith had confidence in: some of these turned out wrong. Jeff Long's objective was to keep the players together this season as well as the staff. The forecaster's were way off the mark including the media. Just because a team finishes a season ranked in the top 10 doesn't mean they will be the next year. This team lost a bunch of talented players from last year's team, especially on defense. Key injuries in the pre-season were a factor and others occurred early on. I think some of the young players grew up this season even though the win/loss record was not what everyone wanted. I am so proud of these players they way the hung in there yesterday and gave themselves a chance to win at the end. After DJ's fumble they could have folded but they didn't.

Jeff Long had no choice in firing Bobby Petrino. Had Petrino been forthright with Long after the accident, he might not have been fired; however, he wasn't!

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Walter says... November 24, 2012 at 12:38 p.m.

Send Jeff Long with him!

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