Arkansas living with deserved humiliation after Petrino firing

While John L. Smith has his hands together, he might want to drop to his knees. (AP photo)

John L. Smith has his hands together. He should drop to his knees.

HOOVER, Ala. — Similar to three months ago, when the invertebrate Bobby Petrino took his young wench (“student-athlete development coordinator”) for a mid-life crisis spin on his motorcycle and got run over by the karma train, Arkansas is feeling the pain for its missteps.

Sympathy? Anybody?

When Petrino was fired – not because Arkansas suits really cared that he cheated on his wife or even lied to their face, but rather to protect themselves from litigation for playing footsie with a subordinate – they hired former assistant John L. Smith.

This is the same John L. Smith who agreed to take the job as a temp (10-month contract) even though he had just left for the Weber State job four months earlier. So much for loyalty. In that sense, at least, this should be a seamless transition from Petrino.

Smith is 63. He’s entertaining. He’s the kind of guy who would watch his house burn down and suddenly break into vaudeville: “Hah! I told you my wife couldn’t cook!” He had several media members laughing at SEC Media Days on Wednesday. (Question: Would you like to be the Arkansas coach for more than one year? Answer: “Certainly. Do I look stupid? Wait, don’t answer that.”)

You want Smith warming up the crowd before the real comics come out. You just don’t really want him coaching a potential top-10 football team.

Prepare for the crash. And the laughter.

This is what happens when a college athletic program hitches its wagon to the morally bankrupt. Athletic director Jeff Long went behind the Falcons’ back and hired Petrino. They gave him everything he wanted. They played dumb when he hired his mistress for a legitimate job posting. They asked only for wins in return. In the end, they got a mangled Harley and national humiliation. (How Long still has a job for enabling this mess is remarkable.)

Bobby Petrino phoned Smith recently to talk about "football, life, family." (AP photo)

Bobby Petrino phoned Smith to talk about "Coaching, life, family."

Smith hasn’t been a head coach for six years. He went 14-21 in his last three years at Michigan State. He got the Weber State job because, well, it’s Weber State and he went to school there.

As if overcoming the emotional trauma of Petrino’s clumsy philandering and firing isn’t enough, Smith is trying to function as an SEC head coach while basically suffering from financial ruin.

Seriously. He admits that a series of failed real estate ventures likely will lead to him to declare bankruptcy soon. That might explain why he was willing to take a U-turn out of Weber State and grab the short-term job for $850,000.

I had a few questions for Smith.

One in particular.

Do you ride a motorcycle?

Answer (laughter): “No. I’d fall off and hurt myself.”

Me: You mean like your predecessor?

Answer: “Oh. Yeah.”

We know the man doesn’t have much of a conscience. He worked for Petrino. But did he have any problems leaving Weber State right after he got there?

“Well, you’re leaving your alma mater and you know people gave you the opportunity – yeah, it’s not fun,” he said. “But you weigh it, and the scales weighed heavier to leaving.”

He disclosed that Petrino phoned him last week. They spoke for up to 30 minutes. But Smith declined afterward to discuss particulars about the conversation — “Coaching, life, family” — but he expects Petrino to get back into coaching. He said the two remain friends.

So when you heard about the motorcycle accident, the girl and everything, were you disappointed with him as a man?

Answer: “Uhh … No.”

Alrighty then.

It gets better. Here’s Smith, somewhat, on his philosophy on life.

“Like we tell players, ‘You’re not a regular student. You can’t go out and do something stupid.’ Believe me, we all do stupid things. We just try not to be overly stupid.”

I’m feeling really good about the Alabama game right about now, how about you?

Smith is not new to adventures. He has run with the bulls in Pamplona. He climbed part of Mount Kilimanjaro. He has jumped out of an airplane (with a parachute). So in his mind, or out of his mind, taking the Arkansas job is just the next logical crazy step.

“My granddad came to this county when he was 12 years old,” Smith said. “His folks put him in a boat and said, ‘Go to America.’ What kind of adventure is that?”

One that inspires more good feelings than this one.

By Jeff Schultz

Previous SEC Media Days blogs

• Muschamp getting heat but deserves some time at Florida

• Slive: SEC needs to be vigilant to avoid Penn State situation

Digi-blog gives you a snapshot of SEC media daze

194 comments Add your comment

Chi Town

July 18th, 2012
4:32 pm

1st.

Respect, Saban.

Dawg Haus

July 18th, 2012
4:37 pm

That picture never gets old.

Max Sizemore

July 18th, 2012
4:39 pm

Under John L., Michigan State was an undisciplined, dirty football team. Arkansas will get what it deserves.

Jeff Schultz

July 18th, 2012
4:42 pm

Dawg Haus — Agreed. I’ve used that picture four or five times. Probably in a series of a hundred. I may even get a tattoo.

rawdawg

July 18th, 2012
4:44 pm

Is it me, or does Shultz just come off as kind of a douche in this article?

Butter Bean Floyd

July 18th, 2012
4:45 pm

Oh but UGA lives with the deserved humiliation of the daily jail blotter news.

Dawg Haus

July 18th, 2012
4:48 pm

Good call on the tat, Jeff. Looking forward to seeing it on the next episode of AR Ink.

timthebrave

July 18th, 2012
4:49 pm

You mean Petrino would leave a football team worse off than when he got there?

I for one am shocked

Jeff Schultz

July 18th, 2012
4:51 pm

Rawdawg — It’s you.

Petrino's O Face

July 18th, 2012
4:51 pm

Arkansas should know better… can’t wallow in filth and expect not to get dirty. They put short-term winning over integrity and paid a dear price. Ask TN post-Kiffin how it worked out.

Randy

July 18th, 2012
4:51 pm

Actually all Falcon fans should send a thank you note to Arkansas. Petrino would never have gotten the Falcons to where they are now.

Skitty Fritty

July 18th, 2012
4:52 pm

What is Petrino doing now? I am sure Bama will take him once Saban leaves.

It's Bill Clinton's state...whatdya expect?

July 18th, 2012
4:52 pm

Go to America – declare bankruptcy…financial and ethical.

Jeff Schultz

July 18th, 2012
4:52 pm

Timthebrave — “You mean Petrino would leave a football team worse off than when he got there?
I for one am shocked”

I’m picking up the familiar scent of sarcasm.

Worm

July 18th, 2012
4:54 pm

Arkansas football is bankrupt!..And that Petrino picture is right up there with UGA biting the drug peddling WR from AwBarn!..Jack Crowe, Joe Kines, the Nutt,Pigtrino..the list goes on..Isn’t Frank Broyles still alive?

Gordon

July 18th, 2012
4:54 pm

I miss the days when sportswriters actually talked about sports.

It's Bill Clinton's state...whatdya expect?

July 18th, 2012
4:55 pm

Jeff, did your assignment just get a little more fun?

Doc Hollidawg

July 18th, 2012
4:56 pm

Butter Bean Floyd
July 18th, 2012
4:45 pm
“Oh but UGA lives with the deserved humiliation of the daily jail blotter news”

Not intended to be a factual statement.

DublDawg

July 18th, 2012
4:56 pm

Is that a picture of Mikhail Gobachev wearing a white hat?

jvillebil

July 18th, 2012
4:56 pm

Jeff, I think we need a pool as to when and where Bobby lands back in football. You get points for 1) location; closest in miles to where he lands 2) level of football; high school, college, pro, ect 3) level of coaching, head assist, ect 4) when it takes place; month and year.
The winner gets free passes to his first game back. Oh and a free autographed picture from above.

It's Bill Clinton's state...whatdya expect?

July 18th, 2012
4:56 pm

Jeff, throw some of that SEC swag your readers way!

Skitty Fritty

July 18th, 2012
4:57 pm

I think John L. Smith needs more time like Muschamp.

It's Bill Clinton's state...whatdya expect?

July 18th, 2012
4:59 pm

jvillebil…..that was funny! but i don’t want passes to his game

[...] Schultz: Arkansas living with humiliation after Petrino firing [...]

It's Bill Clinton's state...whatdya expect?

July 18th, 2012
5:02 pm

I detect slight sarcasm from skitty fritty (twas funny)….don’t think Jeff would appreciate it after his Muschamp article.

JB

July 18th, 2012
5:02 pm

Not a good Article. What would Schultz do if he just signed a new contract at the AJC for 125,000 per year doing this and the NY times called him to be sports editor 2 weeks later for $600,000 a year and he had 2 kids in college. I think we know the answer. Until you have walked in a man’s shoes.

5150 UOAD

July 18th, 2012
5:02 pm

But HONEY I just asked that pretty young girl if she wanted a Ride on My HOG. She did things I didn’t intend her to do.

GT

July 18th, 2012
5:03 pm

Arkansas handled their problem better than Penn State.

Bill

July 18th, 2012
5:04 pm

Smith sounds like the right idiot to follow a idiot..

It's Bill Clinton's state...whatdya expect?

July 18th, 2012
5:05 pm

Is Pocahontas his Asst Head Coach?

Bill

July 18th, 2012
5:05 pm

Penn State is dead meat…NCAA is waiting to have the funeral.

It's Bill Clinton's state...whatdya expect?

July 18th, 2012
5:07 pm

Bill, probably shouldn’t have referenced “meat” and Penn St. together…..

Wilson Pickett

July 18th, 2012
5:07 pm

Bobby should have left the Falcons!
Bobby will be coaching auburn in 2013. He will get paid,laid(again), and saved on the plains. The Banker can’t wait until Gene crashes and burns this year. Spare us the Nobody will hire Bobby after the Hogville problem…we’re talking auburn folks.

David

July 18th, 2012
5:11 pm

Hey, why wouldn’t he take the 850k? Are you kidding me?

It's Bill Clinton's state...whatdya expect?

July 18th, 2012
5:11 pm

Why does Muschamp always look scared on the podium? That previous pic was as good as bobby pigheads face

Oldskoolrazor

July 18th, 2012
5:11 pm

This is a childish and biased assassination piece. Most people feel like Long handled the situation pretty well. No one outside of Atlanta blamed Bobby for leaving the Falcons in the first place. Seemed more like making the best decision for yourself to everyone else.
Smith leaving Weber is meh. Any coach we would have hired would have been leaving another school. What did you expect us to do, hire some random homeless guy? And where would you rather coach? Weber St., or any SEC team?
You sir, think like a selfish 12 year old.

chuck

July 18th, 2012
5:14 pm

Jeff, are you one of those holier-than-thou people.? You really love to pile it on people.

mrTiger

July 18th, 2012
5:25 pm

did arkansas tell john smith that he can’t ride motorcycles with his girlfriends??

Butter Bean Floyd

July 18th, 2012
5:25 pm

Doc Hollidawg is sheeple.

Piney Woods Pete

July 18th, 2012
5:29 pm

This is what happens when a college athletic program hitches its wagon to the morally bankrupt.

You’re talking about UGA, right?

Delbert D.

July 18th, 2012
5:30 pm

He’s just being Schultz. I though he was interviewing for a job with the San Jose Mercury, which in my opinion is better than the AJC.

Nolan Richardson

July 18th, 2012
5:31 pm

L’ing AMO!!!!!!!

Nolan Richardson

July 18th, 2012
5:32 pm

I meant” L’ing MAO!!!!!!!

Delbert D.

July 18th, 2012
5:32 pm

I am holier than thou, assuming there is a very low standard for “thou.”

Well

July 18th, 2012
5:34 pm

Everyone else cheats but UGA. If a team beats UGA, that team cheated. UGA fans said so so it must be true.

Art Vandelay

July 18th, 2012
5:36 pm

Oldskoolrazor, you think the only barbs directed at Petrino came from Atlanta? Where were you when ESPN, SI and every other sports outlet in the country spent a week picking apart his decision to leave his players a “Dear John” letter rather than manning up and explaining his cowardice to them in person? Or that he went behind his employer’s back to interview for the Hogs job even though he was in the middle of his first season as head coach here? Or the incredibly bad decision to show up in Fayeteville at midnight screaming Pig Sooey at the top of his lungs in a presser only a couple of hours after the coward walked out of his job?

Bobby Petrino will surely find another job coaching somewhere where the administration doesn’t care about things like character or honesty — and he’ll leave that program worse off than he found it, just like he has everywhere.

Well

July 18th, 2012
5:39 pm

“Bobby will be coaching auburn in 2013. He will get paid,laid(again), and saved on the plains. The Banker can’t wait until Gene crashes and burns this year.”

UGA will be begging Booby to come coach there by next year. Banker? Who, Lowder? Uh…dumb@ss, Lowder was run out of Auburn last year.

Well

July 18th, 2012
5:40 pm

“Arkansas football is bankrupt!”

As is UGA football. Just ask the Clarke County prison system.

bucket

July 18th, 2012
5:51 pm

@ Well – if you really believe there is the slightest chance that Petrino will be the guy to follow Richt then you are as foolish as I thought you were after reading your other posts.

AtlJack

July 18th, 2012
5:56 pm

As long as college football breeds the insane fans that it does, The Petrino’s and Paterno’s of this world will flourish.

The rabid fans who only care about wins (as if THEY are winning) will put pressure on the schools to do “whatever it takes” to win.

This is why the President of Penn State did whatever Paterno wanted. Its why three janitors at Penn State were afraid to report a child being raped, because the rapist was a member of the priesthood (a football coach).

Wins are all that matters. Look at what the President of any SEC school makes; then look at what the football coach makes (include all the perks) and ask who has the power.