[dropcap]T[/dropcap]his time next week, former Arkansas assistants Paul Petrino and Paul Haynes will have just put the finishing touches on their first-ever recruiting classes as head coaches.
But Petrino, now at Idaho, and Haynes, at his alma mater Kent State, told Sporting News writer Steve Greenberg that they might still be in Fayetteville if not for some serious missteps by the Razorback administration in the wake of Bobby Petrino’s abrupt firing last April.
The biggest of those mistakes was signing John L. Smith to a short-term deal.
“I don’t think an A.D. should ever hire somebody for 10 months,” Paul Petrino said. “Players know what that means; they understand that. It hurts the power of the head coach and the assistants.
“They should’ve hired (Smith) for two years or hired someone else for two years, or just (expletive)-canned all of us.”
Haynes went through a similar situation at Ohio State after Jim Tressel was fired and believes Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long could’ve learned from the Buckeyes.
“Even if they had a plan to get rid of us no matter what, which I think they did, you say two years and I think the kids dig in,” Haynes said. “When you give 10 months, everyone is on egg shells.”
Petrino said that Smith, now head coach at D-II Fort Lewis College and who was also interviewed in the article, was in a no-win situation and may not have gotten a best effort from anyone – coaches or players.
“It was also hard for John L. with assistants,” he said, “maybe even with me. And I love John; outside of my brother and my dad, that’s the person in football I love the most. … I don’t necessarily know if he was ever able to be himself all the way.”
Quarterback Tyler Wilson made headlines when he said that some of his teammates “gave up” in a 52-0 loss to Alabama in week three. Petrino said that by November, it was clear some players were putting their own interests over doing what they could to help the team win.
“There were some seniors who kind of hung it up, to be honest with you,” Petrino said. “They were going to worry about their futures more than that team. A couple seniors said they were hurt and I don’t know if they really were.”
Haynes agreed that some Razorback veterans mailed it in, but he doesn’t blame them. Instead, he blames the administration’s poor decision-making that Haynes feels set the team up for failure.
“Again, it goes back to, ‘Who am I playing for?’,” he said. “Once they can’t say, ‘We’re trying to save the coaches’ jobs’—if they’re just playing for the university, sometimes kids feel the university let them down.”
You can read Greenberg’s full article here.