Five months ago, when John L. Smith abruptly bailed as Weber State's head football coach to take a much higher-profile (and much higher-paying) job at the University of Arkansas, many Weber State fans — myself included — couldn't help but feel at least a little bit betrayed.
Five months later, though, those resentful feelings for the colorful, fiery and often goofy guy (watch his recent "Smile — smile or I'm not talking!" press conference rant on the Internet) who guided the Wildcats' program for a couple cups of coffee — from December 2011 to April 2012 — have turned to pity.
Yes, I can't help but feel sorry for the guy now.
After all, we learned shortly after he left Weber State, his alma mater, that Coach Smith was financially broke — and then some. A recent story reported that Smith, who admittedly lost virtually everything he had in real estate investments that went terribly wrong, owed more than $25 million to creditors. He recently filed for bankruptcy.
It's no wonder, then, that he would choose to run off to Arkansas, where his one-year salary as interim head coach is $850,000 — or more than $700K over what he would've made at Weber State this season. Heck, he would've had to work at WSU for six years to earn what he'll make for his eight-month stint at Arkansas.
And now, with the horrible way the once highly regarded Razorbacks are struggling this season, Smith will be lucky if he lasts there that long.
And no wonder. Coming off a stellar 11-2 season last year, when their only two losses were to Alabama and LSU, the future looked blindingly bright at Arkansas.
But after being ranked in the top 10 in this year's preseason polls and considered among those teams that could seriously challenge for the Southeastern Conference crown and possibly even a berth in the BCS National Championship game, these heralded 'Hogs have been shredded into tiny little bacon bits, their season in a complete shambles.
After a season-opening win, they blew a 21-point lead in a shocking home-field loss to Louisiana-Monroe, a college football no-name. Then came a humbling 52-0 blowout loss to top-ranked SEC foe Alabama, followed by another frustrating home-field defeat against Rutgers.
Then on Saturday, the 'Hogs looked more like Vienna sausage when they were crushed by Texas A&M, 58-10, leaving this once proud and promising program at 1-4 five weeks into what has turned into a
nightmarish 2012 campaign.
Adding even more misery to Coach Smith's personal and professional heartache, his younger brother Bart, 53, passed away earlier this month in Idaho Falls — a tragic loss that makes any defeat on the field seem meaningless by comparison.
Meanwhile, with Weber State's loss on Saturday night at UC Davis, the Wildcats are still winless at 0-5 thus far this season. Then again, Weber State wasn't a top 10 Football Bowl Subdivision team with national title aspirations — although Smith spoke optimistically of doing such things on the Football Championship Subdivision level when he was hired by WSU last December.
Obviously, it ain't happening at either school any time soon.
But who could have possibly guessed that when then-Arkansas head coach Bobby Petrino crashed on his motorcycle in April, setting in motion the turn of events which eventually lead to Smith landing the Razorbacks' head coaching job on an interim basis, that bizarre wreck would serve as an omen for both schools' 2012 seasons.
Yep, it's been an absolute wreck so far.
And, given time, heck, who knows? Maybe Coach Smith would've indeed guided Weber State to a national FCS title. Now, though, there are a lot of people in Ogden who are probably glad he left.
And, given what's transpired since, there are likely a lot of disgruntled fans these days in Fayetteville, Ark., who wish he'd have stayed at Weber State — and would gladly buy him a one-way plane ticket out of town.
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