Arkansas's John L. Smith was one of the more colorful characters of this past college football season. The coach of an awful football team whose location he couldn't quite remember, Smith had very little money in the bank as of September, and negative $40 million as of October. Through it all, Smith was demanding that reporters smile during his press conferences and making shady payment arrangements to avoid having his wages too heavily garnished. At the end of the season, Arkansas hired Bret Bielema, and Smith rode off into the sunset.
But you can't ride that far into the sunset when you're still facing a $40 million bankruptcy case, and John L. Smith has now turned up at DII Fort Lewis College in Durango, CO, where he's signed on with the Skyhawks. The former Michigan State, Louisville, and Utah State coach will be inheriting a team coming off an 0-10 season:
Contract terms have yet to be set, but Hunter said Rivas made in the neighborhood of $67,000 per year and added he's hopeful to pay Smith a bit more than that figure.
Defensive coordinator Ed Rifilato will maintain oversight of the program until Smith assumes his duties. Rifilato played for Smith, who then was a defensive coordinator, at Idaho and was director of football operations in 2002 during Smith's tenure at Louisville. Smith said he hopes to keep Rifilato and evaluate the rest of the current crop of assistants during spring ball.
"It's awesome. He's just going to kick me in the butt and yell at me anyway," said Rifilato, laughing. "He's a great defensive coach and has a great defensive mind, so I like that part."
Junior wide receiver Doyle Bode expressed excitement over the hire as well.
"Outstanding hire," he said. "Never felt more hopeful and excited for Fort Lewis football before. This is what we needed. It's going to be a great year."
Since Rifilato's 2006 squad won seven games, FLC has gone 11-52 overall and hasn't won more than three games in a season, culminating with this year's winless mark, the first such season for the Skyhawks since 1998. The program is just 157-324-3 in its history.
All things considered, it doesn't sound so bad, which is especially happy news for Smith: Less the $850,000 Smith received for coaching Arkansas to a 4-8 record, he'd be working at Fort Lewis for uh, 47 years to pay off that $40 million. Thank God for Chapter 11. Stay smiling, coach.
John L. Smith Is FLC's New Football Coach [Durango Herald]