The Associated Press first reported Monday that the University of Arkansas had decided to hire Smith, a former Arkansas special teams coordinator, as an interim head coach to replace Bobby Petrino. Smith, at his alma mater Weber State for just three months, approached Arkansas first about becoming the interim head coach, according to ESPN's Joe Schad.
Later reports indicate that the former Michigan State coach even agreed to less than a one-year deal to take over the Razorbacks. Arkansas went 21-5 over the last two seasons under Petrino and is expected to compete for SEC and national titles this year with the majority of the core team returning. It's unclear how much Smith will be compensated as interim head coach, but Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long is expected to make an announcement on Monday afternoon.
The decision to have Smith replace Petrino is an interesting one for a multitude of reasons, especially given that the two share a past. It was Petrino who replaced Smith at Louisville, and the two have been on the same staff at four previous stints, including during 2009-2011 at Arkansas.
Smith replaces his friend, who was fired on April 10 after lying about an inappropriate relationship with Jessica Dorrell, a 25-year-old football program staffer. Petrino carried on a seven-month affair with the former Arkansas volleyball player, while giving her $20,000 and a job.
Petrino had won 21 games in his last two seasons at Arkansas and had the Razorbacks geared for a potential championship season under his helm. Arkansas could have had its best season in decades with Petrino guiding the way next season, but Long decided that he couldn't allow a coach that viewed himself above the entire university to continue in that position.
Arkansas decided to fire Petrino with cause -- meaning he won't be owed any of the $18 million remaining on his contract -- after he lied about an April 1 motorcycle accident. He initially told Long and the athletic department that he was riding alone in a crash that left him with broken ribs and cracked vertebrae, but later admitted to riding along with Dorrell.
He made the decision, a conscious decision, to mislead the public on Tuesday, and in doing so negatively and adversely affected the reputation of the University of Arkansas and our football program, Long said April 10. In short, Coach Petrino engaged in a pattern of misleading and manipulative behavior designed to deceive me and members of the athletic staff, both before and after the motorcycle accident.