John L. Smith knows exactly what to say at an introductory press conference. Having been through two of those things in the past five months it’s no surprise that he has the whole thing down to an art.
Meeting the press on his return to Arkansas yesterday — after a blink-and-you-missed-it stint at his alma mater, Weber State — Smith told Razorback fans just what they wanted to hear. Mainly that championships are still on the table and are still the goal for this year’s bunch of Bobby Petrino-less Hogs:
“Our expectations are the same. Nothing’s going to slow down. In fact, we’re going to speed up. Our expectations are that we’re going to go ahead and we’re going to battle and fight for a national title. It was that way when I walked in the door three years ago and it’s going to continue to be that way…
Everything’s in place here. You’ve got a good football team. We’ve got the best fans in the world. We’ve got great coaches. Let’s make it a special year.”
Somebody give the Governor a harrumph!
In addition to motivating the Razorback fanbase, Smith touched on a few other topics…
* He spoke of his love of adventure and new challenges: “If there is a door open, walk through it. If there’s a window open, jump out of it. I guess I’ve always been a little that way.” (Folks in Ogden can now attest to that. Sounds like Jeff Long’s found the perfect stable, dependable replacement for a guy like Petrino.)
* He seemed eager to share some of the blame for his quick Weber State exit with his wife: “I said, ‘This decision’s yours. She said, ‘Here’s the deal. You’re going back to people that love you. You’re going back to a team that is a good football team and you have a chance to fight for a national championship.’ She said, ‘This might be the only chance you have left.’ So she said, ‘You’re going back’ and here I am.” (Smith did not say that his wife at any point said to him, “Tough noogies to the nimrods who put their faith in you at Weber State,” but that sure seems to have been her sentiment.)
* After admitting that he’s looking for redemption — after being fired by Michigan State in 2006 — he made it clear that he feels there’s a chance he could land the Razorback job long-term: ”We’ll have to wait and see. Only the season is going to dictate that.”
Smith said all this while wearing a slick set of cowboy boots. At one point he called a television personality “fat and sloppy.” And he also intentionally mispronounced the name of Arkansas tailback Knile Davis.
It was either an oddball ending to an oddball month for Razorback football or the oddball beginning to what could be a helluva football season. Hog fans will obviously hope for the latter. And from purely a football sense, Long seems to have tabbed the one man for the interim gig who could calm fans, unite the players, and keep the existing assistants on his side.
Win, win and win.
Still, I want to toss a little credit in the direction of the Razorback fanbase today. While they’ll be cheering wildly for Smith to capture a conference and/or national crown this fall — as they should, he’s the coach of their football program after all — most seem to realize that he pulled a pretty cruel stunt on the administration, assistants and players at Weber State. The defense of Smith’s actions has been muted at best. And that is probably for the best. Defending the way in which he nuked his alma mater would have just given Hog fans a reputation for being blind to all but their own their own school’s issues.
As it stands, it appears that most Hog backers are for Smith to succeed… even though they know he didn’t bathe himself in glory by departing Ogden, Utah as he did.
Kudos to them. Best of luck to him.