Arkansas hires Smith as head coach

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

— 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."

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

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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