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Monday, April 23, 2012
Ex-MSU coach to take over at Arkansas

By Adam Rittenberg

Slap yourselves, Spartans fans: John L. Smith is expected to become the new interim head coach at Arkansas.

Colleague Joe Schad reports that Smith, fired from Michigan State in November 2006, will be introduced Tuesday in Fayetteville as the surprising choice to take over for Bobby Petrino with the Razorbacks. He agreed to a 10-month contract with Arkansas, where he served as special-teams coach the past three seasons before leaving for the top job at Weber State. Coincidentally, Petrino succeeded Smith at Louisville after Smith left for the Michigan State job. The circumstances are very different now, but still notable.

Former Ohio State assistant Taver Johnson had been serving as Arkansas' head coach since Petrino's firing earlier this month.

Smith went 22-26 at Michigan State. He won Big Ten Coach of the Year honors during his first season in 2003, but he oversaw midseason collapses in both 2005 and 2006 that sealed his fate at the school. His most memorable moments: slapping himself in a news conference after a loss to Illinois and a halftime meltdown at Ohio State, when Smith famously told ABC's Jack Arute, "The kids are playing their tails off, and the coaches are screwing it up!"

Smith remains one of the more colorful characters in coaching. I'll never forget seeing him playfully shove the Lansing State Journal's Joe Rexrode after a win at Notre Dame. He also has climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa, has run with the bulls in Spain and has skydived over Indiana.

I'm guessing Michigan State fans, thrilled with their current coach Mark Dantonio, had a few laughs today when they heard about the John L. news.

How do you think he'll fare in Fayetteville? He inherits an extremely good team.

Who knows? Maybe we'll see Michigan State and Arkansas matched up in a BCS bowl game this year. That'd be fun.