On Tuesday, University of Arkansas Athletic Director Jeff Long announced the hiring of John L. Smith as the head coach for the 2012 Arkansas Razorbacks. Smith, a longtime mentor of, and most recently an assistant for, shamed former coach Bobby Petrino, comes to the job after a scant few weeks as the head man at FCS Weber State. In announcing the hire, Long cited the desire to maintain continuity in the program, which is a fancy way of saying he wants to maximize next year’s championship potential for the talented players currently on campus.
We’ve been critical of Long previously in this space, but without weighing in on the right-or-wrong of the past fire and the current hire, we must acknowledge the genius of what he has done. Long has artfully and successfully shifted the blame in the entire fiasco away from himself and his lax management of Razorbacks Athletics program and pinned it all on Petrino. And now that he has fired Petrino, he wants Petrino’s program to continue, so he somehow managed to keep a reasonable fascimile of Petrino at the helm.
Pretty slick trick, isn’t it? Fire Petrino, but still have Petrino’s Hologram running the team?
Let’s review what we know about the Arkansas Athletic Department under Jeff Long:
– Hired a coach with a documented history of questionable business ethics, and then acted shocked to discover those business scruples bled into the coach’s personal behavior.
– Allowed the head coach to run up impressive phone charges while sexting for months on the company account. Presumably no one inside Razorback athletics reviewed the bills for this public university?
– Failed to manage the hiring of department employees. In fact, was so uninvolved in the process that this same head coach was able to hijack the system and elevate one candidate above a myriad of other applicants.
– Allowed university funds (totally $20,000.00 by some accounts) to be used to help fund this new employee’s wedding or engagement party (or something, this part gets murky in the public reports)
– Allowed a press conference where the coach created false impressions and withheld important information from players, fans, and employees of the university.
– Released the details of an incident involving the head coach without waiting for all relevant information to be collected (little things like police accident reports, for example).
Doesn’t really paint a flattering picture of the state of the Razorback Athletic Program and AD Long’s management prowess, does it?
Nevertheless, the AD took to the podium at his presser a couple of weeks back, and without a hint of self-reflection or acceptance of blame, forcefully condemned the coach he chose to employ. And now, within a fortnight of the bitter firing, he announces the hiring of Petrino’s longtime confidante.
We may not have Bobby Petrino running the show for the Hogs anymore, but we have the closest thing to him that Jeff Long could get.