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Pac-12 Confidential

Bud Withers offers an inside look at the Pac-12 Conference and the national college scene.

April 23, 2012 at 3:55 PM

Come on, John L., you’re better than this . . .

So Arkansas has managed to patch the blowout created by the recent Bobby Petrino mess: It just hired John L. Smith of Weber State to stand in for a year as interim coach while the Razorbacks try to find somebody on a little higher moral ground than Petrino trod.

Nothing shocking there, except maybe two things: Smith, 63, didn’t coach a game at Weber; he was hired at the end of the Wildcats’ 2011 season.

And Weber’s his alma mater. So much for deep affection there.

It stinks, and it’s just more example of coaches running amok while the athletes suffer the short straw. First, it was Petrino earlier this month, plumbing new depths of dirtbaggery (even by his standards), and more recently, Wisconsin basketball coach Bo Ryan creating a huge fuss and throwing down all sorts of restrictions because a player had, horrors, expressed his desire to transfer.

Smith had worked at several stops with Petrino, and in recent years, after getting fired as Michigan State head coach in 2006, had poked around for another BCS-level head job. He was involved in the Washington State search when the Cougars hired Paul Wulff in 2007.

Last winter, with his clock obviously ticking down, Smith took on the head-coaching job at Weber, a Football Championship Division school.

According to the Salt Lake Tribune, Smith said then, “I’ve always had a place in my heart for Weber State.”

I guess reporters forgot to establish how big that place was.

Asked that day about his coaching philosophy, Smith said, “Loyalty is No. 1.”

I figure Smith was probably going to make maybe a hundred grand at Weber, tops. He’s due to pull down $850,000 on a 10-month contract at Arkansas. Everybody has his price, and we just found out what Smith’s is.

Smith was Dennis Erickson’s defensive coordinator at WSU, and after that, head coach at Idaho. Funny, but the parallel that struck me quickest was Erickson’s second tenure at Idaho.

Recall: He had left Oregon State after the 2002 season (ill-advisedly) for the San Francisco 49ers job. And now, fired after two seasons and sitting out 2005, he was on the scrap heap, desperate to find work. Idaho rescued the 59-year-old coach in 2006 when nobody else was willing, It was going to be a full-circle-now-I-know-better kind of thing.

Of course, Erickson was gone 10 months later for Arizona State. He never even had a recruiting class. Got there just after one and left before the next one.

Ten months, precisely the same span John L. Smith just signed up for. Clearly, he learned well.

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