The ripple from the waves of scandal can be felt far away. The unintended consequences of Bobby Petrino's actions were many, and some are definitely more important than their impact on football. But when Petrino acted a fool on April 1st, it eventually left Weber State without a head football coach after spring camp had already concluded.
In the world of lower-division and mid-major college sports, you get used to being a punching bag. But you never expect such a blow to come from someone that calls your school "alma mater."
In a college sports world where schools will drop tradition and rivalries for a few extra conference dollars, I suppose nothing should surprise us. Still, when John L. Smith took over the reigns at Weber State, he seemed like the perfect fit to take the torch. Passing him that torch was the aging Ron McBride, a Utah sports legend. After making the University of Utah competitive in football, he brought Weber State football out of the ashes and into a conference competitor again. While only 43-38 in his seven seasons there, McBride did get Weber State to 10-3 and to the FCS Quarterfinals before bowing out to Montana in 2008.
Smith took the job to return to Ogden after 40 years away. After playing at Weber State in 1968-1970, he was a graduate assistant the following year, and then began his lengthy coaching career. After stops around the WAC, Pac-10, C-USA, the Big Ten, and the SEC, Smith was making his move back to Ogden to put a cap on his career, to bring it full circle.
After Petrino wrecked his motorcycle and the facts begin to emerge (he was riding with his mistress, who he had also self-hired into a job in Arkansas's athletic department), Smith's name emerged as a solid interim replacement. Having coached the special teams for the Razorbacks for three years, Smith was familiar with the school and the conference. The school made its move, and Smith coached zero games in the Big Sky and presided over the Wildcats for just a matter of months.
Weber State was uncomfortably trending on Twitter when Arkansas made the announcement. While some were wondering why Arkansas would choose John L, others weren't sure how John L could put the screws to his alma mater in such a terrible way.
Anybody can be bought with money, even a football coach bought to leave his alma mater high and dry. How could a coach who held solid coaching positions for many, many years turn his back on Weber State for $850k as Arkansas's one-year rental? His integrity was called into question by many.
None of us knew the full story. While John L. was being villainized by many, he made his decision on the backdrop of financial distress. Smith had lost tons of money in real estate investments he began while coaching at Louisville over 10 years ago. His investment stake of "multi-millions" couldn't withstand what happened over the last several years, and Smith is filing for bankruptcy.
Like John L. from his investment disaster, Weber State will try to move on. Defensive coordinator Jody Sears, who coached the same position at Washington State for the last three seasons, was named the interim head coach for Weber's 2012 campaign. Sears will try to improve upon Weber's disappointing 5-6 mark last season and keep the ship steered in the right direction, moving on without the coach he and his colleagues thought would take the program to the next level.
Of note, BYU will play Weber State just the third time in school history, holding a 2-0 series lead. The last game was played in 1979 in Provo, where BYU won 48-3.
|| "Offseason Storylines" examines the biggest pre-season stories from each team on BYU's schedule. Stay tuned for further game previews as the season approaches.