Arkansas Hires John L. Smith as Head Coach

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Arkansas Razorbacks football has long been a hot ticket in this town of more than 68,000.

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Smith has a 132-86 record as a head coach with the Spartans, Cardinals as well as at Idaho and Utah State. He was the Big Ten Coach of the Year in 2003 after posting the most wins by a first-year coach in Michigan State history, finishing 8-4. But things went downhill fast in East Lansing, Mich., and he finished 22-26 overall with the Spartans.

He went 41-21 in five seasons at Louisville, including five straight bowl appearances.

He will provide a familiar face for the Razorbacks after three weeks of turmoil.

Petrino was hired to replace Houston Nutt on Dec. 11, 2007, famously leaving the Atlanta Falcons before the end of the NFL season. He built the program into a Southeastern Conference and national power and many expect the Razorbacks to make a championship run in 2012.

Arkansas was 11-2 last season, with its only losses coming to national champion Alabama and runner-up LSU. Arkansas finished the season No. 5, its best season-ending ranking since 1977, and returns Heisman Trophy hopefuls at quarterback (Tyler Wilson) and running back (Davis).

However, for all of the success and expectations, Petrino's tenure with the Razorbacks will likely be more remembered for how it ended.

The 51-year-old Petrino suffered four broken ribs, a cracked vertebra and numerous abrasions to his face following the accident on his Harley-Davidson with Dorrell along for the ride. Petrino failed to tell his boss about the presence of the 25-year-old Dorrell until minutes before the police report was released.

Long put Petrino on paid leave and fired him less than a week later. The married father of four later chose not to appeal his firing, meaning he walked away with none of the $18 million buyout due in his contract. His annual salary averaged more than $3.5 million.

Despite his failings away from the field, Petrino was nothing short of spectacular in his four seasons at Arkansas. He was 34-17 overall, finishing 5-7 his first season in 2008. That season followed a 10-year run by Nutt, who left for Ole Miss after the 2007 season.

Nutt's final days with the Razorbacks were marred by rumors of turmoil within his coaching staff, fueled by the departure of former offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn to Tulsa after the 2006 season. Malzahn later won a national championship as the offensive coordinator at Auburn before being hired in December as the head coach at Arkansas State. His departure also led to the transfers of his former high school stars — wide receiver Damian Williams and quarterback Mitch Mustain, both who left for USC.

The upheaval led to fans flying "Fire Nutt" banners before games during the 2007 seasons, and it left the fan base fractured before and after he left for the Rebels.

Petrino's hiring brought that base back together. The school looked past his history of job-hopping, trusting him to lead Arkansas to a level of success it hadn't experienced since joining the SEC in 1992.

Arkansas looks to continue its recent good fortunes under the leadership of a familiar and comforting face in Smith.

"Throughout the spring, the assistant coaches and student-athletes have shown incredible focus and character, which we will use to build on as we work to achieve our goals for 2012," Smith said.

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