Arkansas’ search for a new football coach, which began when Bobby Petrino was fired on April 10, ended when Wisconsin’s Bret Bielema accepted the position Tuesday. It wrapped up an eight-month search by Arkansas athletics director Jeff Long.
Here’s a quick time line of events that unfolded over that time:
• April 10 — Long announces decision to fire Bobby Petrino for cause, nine days after his April 1 motorcycle accident involving passenger, mistress and recently hired employee Jessica Dorrell. It ends Petrino’s four-year run with the Razorbacks, who went 21-5 with Sugar Bowl and Cotton Bowl appearances during his final two seasons.
• April 24 — John L. Smith, who was in his first few months as Weber State’s head coach, is named Arkansas’ head coach. Smith left Arkansas a few months earlier for Weber State after working three seasons as an assistant under Petrino. He agreed to a 10-month contract to pay him $850,000.
• July 4 — Smith tells the Associated Press he is on the verge of filing for bankruptcy because of land deals in Kentucky that soured. Long said he was aware of Smith’s financial difficulties when he hired the coach and didn’t believe it would serve as a distraction for the 2012 season.
• Sept. 6 — Smith formally files for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection. Two weeks later, filed court documents show Smith claimed $25 million in liabilities. It is later amended to $40 million. Smith stresses, again, his financial difficulties would not distract the Hogs.
• Sept. 8 — Arkansas’ lengthy win streak in Little Rock ends with a 34-31 overtime loss to Louisiana-Monroe. Arkansas, which lost Tyler Wilson to a concussion in the second quarter, led 28-7 before crumbling in one of the season’s biggest upsets.
• Oct. 27 — The Hogs drop to 3-5 after a 30-27 loss to Ole Miss at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock, leaving Arkansas winless in Little Rock for the first time since 1993.
• Nov. 23 — Arkansas suffers a 20-13 loss to LSU at Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville, putting the finishing touches on one of the most frustrating seasons in school history. The Razorbacks lost eight games for the first time since 1990.
• Nov. 24 — Long announces, officially, that Smith will not return in 2013 as Arkansas’ coach. Smith will remain employed by the school through February, at which time his 10-month contract expires. Long said assistant coaches will have opportunities to remain on staff depending on the program’s next head coach.
• Nov. 27 — LSU coach Les Miles’ flirtation with Arkansas becomes public. Two reports indicated Miles was mulling a five-year, $27.5 million offer from the Hogs. A source with knowledge of Arkansas’ search disputed the report, saying an offer had not been made. Miles announced a day later he would remain at LSU after receiving a contract extension and raise from athletics director Joe Alleva.
• Dec. 2 — Long reportedly meets with Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy to discuss the Arkansas vacancy. The coach also met with Tennessee about its opening, according to multiple reports. Vanderbilt coach James Franklin, who was rumored to be among the candidates in consideration for the Arkansas job, announces he will remain with the Commodores after agreeing to a contract extension and raise.
• Dec. 4 — Arkansas hires Bret Bielema as the program’s 32nd football coach. The 42-year-old leaves after guiding Wisconsin to its third straight Big Ten Conference title and subsequent berth in the Rose Bowl. Bielema agreed to a five-year contract worth $3.2 million annually.
— Robbie Neiswanger • Arkansas News Bureau