5 worst Arkansas football head coaching hires

Let's look back at the history of Arkansas football and examine the careers of the five worst Arkansas football head coaches of all-time.

Western Kentucky v Arkansas
Western Kentucky v Arkansas / Wesley Hitt/GettyImages
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No. 3: John L. Smith (2012)

In any sport, but especially in college football, constant turnover leads to chaos. That's why so many athletic directors around the country are prone to be slow when deciding to make a coaching change.

Therefore, the decision to hire John L. Smith as essentially a one-year placeholder in 2012 was an awful move by the Razorbacks' leadership. Sure, his predecessor, Bobby Petrino (who we will discuss in depth momentarily) left the program needing a steady hand at the wheel.

However, to essentially punt on an entire season by hiring a coach that just about everyone knows is only there for a year (he signed only a 10-month contract when he got the job) is one of the most absurd decisions a major college football program could make.

Sure, Petrino was fired in April, which is extremely late in the offseason to be looking for a new head coach. However, that doesn't mean a university should just give up on the upcoming season by hiring a coach that it doesn't intend to keep long-term. A year without growth and building toward something can cripple a football program.

Don't forget that Kansas hired Lance Leipold on the final day of April 2021. All he has done since is turn the laughing stock of the college football world into an annual bowl participant and one of the more exciting teams to watch in the nation.

Predictably, Smith would go just 4-8 in 2012, one year after the Hogs managed a rare 11-win season. That would set his predecessor, Bielema up for a rough start in 2013 (a 3-9 season that saw Arkansas go winless in S.E.C. play).

College football is all about building a program. It isn't the NFL where teams can turn into contenders almost overnight. Rather, it takes time and persistence to gain momentum in the college football world.

By hiring John L. Smith as a one-year stop-gap coach, Arkansas put the breaks on the momentum that was in place at the end of the Petrino era. It was a strange move when it happened and over a decade later, it is one that still has many people scratching their heads.