Smith, 64, takes over 0-10, Div. II program

By: Tom Murphy
Published: Thursday, January 17, 2013
John L. Smith was named head coach at Fort Lewis College on Wednesday.
Photo by Michael Woods
John L. Smith was named head coach at Fort Lewis College on Wednesday.

— Former Arkansas Coach John L. Smith has been hired to take the head coaching reins at Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colo., the school announced Wednesday.

Smith, who led Arkansas to a 4-8 season last fall, will take over the Division II program March 1.

Fort Lewis Athletic Director Gary Hunter, who was Idaho’s athletic director during Smith’s tenure there from 1989-1994, made the announcement.

“We are extremely fortunate to have a coach with the tremendous background and experience that John L. Smith brings to Fort Lewis College,”Hunter said in a university release.

Smith, 64, guided six conference championship teams and advanced to seven bowl games during his 19-year tenure as a head coach and was named the Big Ten Coach of the Year in 2003 at Michigan State. He takes over a Skyhawks program that went 0-10 last season.

“I’m very excited to actually coach for the real reasons you get into coaching - to make a difference in the kids’ lives and help them get an education,” Smith said in the Fort Lewis news release. “At this point in my career, to get back and coach for the real reasons … not to get somebody to the NFL, but to coach kids who wantto play the game and get an education, I’m just thankful that they’ve provided me the opportunity to do this.”

Smith will make approximately $67,000 a season, which will be renewed on a year-by-year basis, and will have only 16 or 17 scholarships available.

Smith, who inherited an Arkansas team that was No. 10 in The Associated Press Top 25 preseason poll, has had a tumultuous 13 months, beginning with his departure as the Razorbacks special teams coach to take over at his alma mater Weber State in December 2011.

Smith, who spent three years working as an assistant at Arkansas under Bobby Petrino, was rehired by Athletic Director Jeff Long on April 24, two weeks after the firing of Petrino for lying about circumstances surrounding his Harley-Davidson wreck, to guide the program on a 10-month, $850,000 contract.

Sour notes began sounding for Smith before the season.He revealed in July that his investments in land and real estate holdings around Louisville, Ky., had turned bad and he was on the verge of filing for bankruptcy. He dismissed four players from the team, including receiver Marquel Wade, late in the summer after all four were involved in burglaries. Wade was convicted and sentenced in October to six months in jail and five years probation.

Smith filed for bankruptcy during the season’s pivotal second week, a week that started off with the Razorbacks finding out that fullback Kiero Small would be lost for the season. Then, there were injuries to another fullback, Kody Walker, cornerback Tevin Mitchell and quarterback Tyler Wilson during the course of a stunning 34-31 overtime loss to Louisiana Monroe in Little Rock.

That kicked off a fourgame losing streak for a team that reached No. 8 in the AP poll after a season-opening victory. During the losing streak, which included SEC losses to Alabama and Texas A&M by a combined 100 points, Smith’s 53-year-old brother, Bart, died in Idaho Falls, Idaho.

Sports, Pages 17 on 01/17/2013