Needless to say, the University of Arkansas has had its share of issues in the past few months with the Bobby Petrino scandal and the fallout which resulted from it. In hiring former assistant coach John L. Smith, it appears there is another coach in Fayetteville with personal baggage in tow.
According to buzz around the Internet this morning, Smith is planning to declare personal bankruptcy due to several failed real estate investments which got him and his family in over their heads in debt.
The majority of the land deals were located in Kentucky, and were made while Smith was the head coach at the University of Louisville from 1998-2002. It appears Smith was up front with Arkansas officials regarding his personal financial issues, and Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long was convinced they in no way would affect his performance.
Smith noted he believed the investments were safe, and would only make he and his family money, and the crashing real estate market was just too much to bear:
It just got big.
It was a situation where we all made a little and said, `Well, that’s good. Let’s see if we can make a little more.” At that point, the bank was willing to give away money. We got in over our head with land, and then the bubble burst and all this land value dropped and we couldn’t sustain it.
Quote from CNNSI interview.
Smith claims the reason why he wanted to be up-front about his personal financial difficulties at this point in the calendar year was so there would be no distractions during the football season. Jeff Long claims in doing so, distraction will be eliminated, and Smith’s problems are just another example of people across the country who have suffered financial problems due to situations largely out of their control.
Is is that simple though?
Decision-making is what coaching is about at its core.
It is the essence of coaching.
I’m not necessarily saying Smith’s troubles away from the field will carry over to his football decision-making or reflect on his performance, but if this bankruptcy process is instigated during, or just prior to the season, and is constantly looming in the background, you can’t tell me it won’t be a distraction.
Being able to compartmentalize one’s personal issues from one’s professional responsibilities isn’t an easy task– especially for someone who is entering the fishbowl of focus which John Smith is in Fayetteville following the Bobby Petrino controversy.
If he’s successful in doing so, there’s no problem at hand.
Kris Hughes is the College Football Network Manager for Rant Sports and a member of the Football Writers Association of America.
Kris is also the host of Rant Sports Radio on the Blog Talk Radio Network Wednesday evenings at 8 Central Time.