The University of Arkansas will not be renewing the contract of interim coach John L. Smith, the university announced today, confirming what everyone and his sister knew the minute then-No. 8 Arkansas lost in Little Rock to Louisiana-Monroe on Sept. 8. Smith's team cliff-dove out of the polls, then followed that ignominy with seven more losses, ranked here in descending order of horror:
This for a team that finished fifth in the country a season earlier and had (in hindsight, hilarious) visions of competing for a (oh, God, recall the naïveté) national title. Defining "normalcy" in Fayetteville is never a simple task, but 2012 has not been that. Now the Hogs are planning to throw bales of money at Jon Gruden or Boise State's Chris Petersen or some other post-Petrino magic man who can get back into the top 10 without flouting state employment law by putting his chippy on the payroll.
As for John L.? He now has wins over Jacksonville State, Tulsa, Auburn, and Kentucky to top his resume. And he's $850,000 closer to paying off the $40 million or so he owes his creditors. It takes a certain kind of talent to run up debts in the mid-eight figures just as it takes a certain kind of talent to get hired for a job on a preseason contender and then lose two-thirds of your games. John L.'s talent apparently is getting people to believe in John L. when John L. is perilously out of his depth. That may now be John L.'s greatest asset, the one thing that can neither be liquidated nor forgotten, no matter how Arkansas fans try.