Arkansas Makes Best of Bad Situation with John L. Smith Hire
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Let's face it, the University of Arkansas had to hire somebody to replace fired head football coach Bobby Petrino. And at this time of the year, the fact of the matter is that there aren't any obvious coaching candidates on the market.
So Arkansas settled for former assistant coach John L. Smith as its interim head coach, a hire that was first reported by the Associated Press. Smith wasn't even technically on the market, as he had agreed to coach at Weber State, his alma mater, before he jumped at the opportunity to go coach a loaded Razorbacks team that he knows very well.
Did Smith stab Weber State in the back by jumping ship in late April? Without a doubt.
Would all of us have done the same thing in his shoes? Probably. It's just not every day that a has-been head coach like Smith gets an opportunity to rescue a team that has championship potential.
And to Arkansas, I say "Bravo!" for reaching out to Smith in the first place. I'll admit that the decision to hire him struck me as being a little puzzling at first, as the first things that came to mind about Smith were his unspectacular record at Michigan State and his assorted lapses in composure. Arkansas needed to make a safe hire after the Petrino mess unfolded, and Smith did not seem like a safe hire at first.
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The decision to hire Smith looks a lot better after one sits down and thinks about it for a minute or two.
Smith worked as an assistant under Petrino for three seasons. He knows Arkansas, and he knows most of Arkansas' players and coaches. And presumably, he knows at least a little bit of what Petrino had in mind for this team in 2012. The coaches who are left will fill him in on the rest, and he'll be able to adjust as he sees fit.
It also sounds like Smith is going to be a welcome sight for the players, who sorely needed a welcome sight after Petrino was fired following his ill-fated motorcycle ride on April 1st. Hogs running back Knile Davis spoke for himself when he tweeted this:
The happiest day of my life... hearing that John L.Smith is coming back to the ville to b our head coach...#priceless— Knile Davis (boobie) (@Boobie_Knile) April 23, 2012
Seeing as how Davis is one of Arkansas' most notable stars, Smith definitely could have received a worse welcome.
Smith has to know he really can't lose in Arkansas this season. If he leads the Hogs to the kind of season everyone expected them to have under Petrino, he'll be a local hero and the university will probably remove his interim tag and sign him long-term. If Arkansas underachieves under his watch, a lot of people are going to be disappointed, but nobody's going to be foolish enough to run Smith out of town on a rail. Hogs fans should be willing to take what they can get this season, and the same goes for the university.
Yay or nay on the John L. Smith hire?
This would have been the case even if the Hogs had resurrected Vince Lombardi and slapped a playbook in his hands. The idea for Arkansas wasn't so much to find the best coach available as much as it was to find a coach who could actually do something with the team at hand.
To that end, Smith is a perfect choice.
Some have noted that the Smith choice is strange because the program needed an angel, and Smith is no angel. But compared to Petrino, a notorious liar and a generally unlikable human being, Smith really doesn't look so bad as far as I'm concerned.
So once again, I'll tip my cap to the University of Arkansas, specifically AD Jeff Long. The Petrino firing was handled the right way, and the university made the best of a bad situation by hiring Smith.
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