FAYETTEVILLE — The rumblings from supporters about Arkansas’ performance under coach John L. Smith are growing louder after last Saturday’s 52-0 loss to top-ranked Alabama.
One example in the social media age: A Facebook page entitled “Fire John L. Smith” has gained more than 15,000 fans since being created on Sept. 8.
But Smith said Monday he’s not paying attention to any of the noise.
“I don’t listen to that crap,” Smith said. “I just focus on these guys and trying to do what we can do, what we have control of. So I don’t worry about it.”
Smith and the Hogs are trying to dig out of a big hole after opening the season 1-2 with consecutive losses to Louisiana-Monroe and Alabama. Arkansas (1-2) wraps up a four-game season-opening homestand against Rutgers (3-0) on Saturday.
It’s not the start Arkansas envisioned when Smith signed a 10-month contract in April, agreeing to leave Weber State for another chance to lead a big program.
Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long said at the time it was the right move for the Hogs, keeping continuity intact for a team that carried national title aspirations into the season. It also would allow Long more time to conduct a thorough search for a long-term solution, too. Long said at the time Smith was a candidate in that search.
It’s hard to imagine the coach is in plans after two straight losses, although Long showed support for Smith after meeting with reporters prior to the Alabama game.
“We brought coach Smith back here to hold this program together,” Long said. “We were obviously in a very difficult situation at that time. He wanted to come back and help us. That’s what he’s doing. … We’ll play the season out and then we’ll know at the end of the season what direction we’re headed.”
Long said last Friday he wasn’t going to critique the program publicly on a game-by-game basis throughout the season because it “doesn’t do anybody any good.” He did, however, issue two tweets a day after the Alabama loss with mentions of quarterback Tyler Wilson and the rest of the Razorbacks.
“Impressed with Tyler’s desire to step up under tough circumstances last night. He and other players will show their Will to win.” Long said via Twitter on Sunday night. “Visited Broyles Center & team has turned its focus to Rutgers and I believe they will turn corner this week, counting on fan support Sat?”
Smith said Monday none of the coaches were error-free in the Alabama loss. He said the players weren’t, either.
So public perception isn’t his motivation. It’s fixing the problems on the practice field this week as Arkansas tries to salvage the season.
“It’s not going to be the first time,” Smith said of any fans critical about his work after three games. “Not going to be the last time. … Say what they want.”
— Robbie Neiswanger • Arkansas News Bureau