FAYETTEVILLE, Ark.– 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.”