It's not really a surprise that John L. Smith won't be back next year in Arkansas. During his postgame press conference after Arkansas narrowly lost to LSU yesterday, Smith was already talking about his time as head coach in the past tense.
Today, Arkansas made it official. Smith will not return to the sideline in 2013. Arkansas is likely to undergo another season of transition, but it will be someone else tasked with picking up the pieces that left behind after his ill-advised motorcycle ride. The man who showed Petrino the door after that incident, athletics director Jeff Long, now has another decision to make.
Last April, when I appointed Coach Smith for the 2012 season, I indicated I thought this would provide us the opportunity to take the time necessary to identify the right coach for the future and to do so in a time that would allow us to attract quality candidates.
Well, that's close enough to the truth, though John L. Smith and others made it relatively clear that his year at the helm was a tryout to see if he would be considered for the position. The answer to that after a 4-8 season is a resounding "no." It's not coincidental that Long talked about "discipline, honesty and integrity" in his statement.
Smith was remarkably restrained in his response, though it came in the form of a prepared statement, so there were few signs of the interesting lines that have become Smith's trademark during his brief stint as an SEC head coach. There were also few signs of any bitterness on Smith's part.
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.
The search now begins for Smith's successor, with the early names likely to include Jon Gruden and Charlie Strong. A particularly delusional local news figured put the name of Chris Petersen out there on the Twitter yesterday, but you have to think that Arkansas would be gun-shy about hiring another former Boise State head coach, given the Houston Nutt experience.
The one coach likely on the market that we know won't have the job is John L. Smith. Oh, and Bobby Petrino. Ultimately, it's Petrino that got the Razorbacks into the mess that the next coach will have to dig them out of.