FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. —
The school had struggled to find its identity in the SEC since leaving the former Southwest Conference, but it appeared to have finally found just that under Petrino, who was hired after leaving Atlanta during the season in 2007.
The Razorbacks turned into an offensive powerhouse under Petrino. After winning 10 games and reaching the school's first BCS bowl game in 2010, losing to Ohio State, Arkansas won 11 games in 2011, capped by a Cotton Bowl win over Kansas State.
While the country watched closely to see how Arkansas would react following Petrino's dismissal, Smith made headlines of his own throughout the season. The former Michigan State and Louisville coach told The Associated Press before the season that he would likely have to file for bankruptcy following land deals gone wrong in Kentucky. The 64-year-old filed in September — eventually revealing $40.7 million in debt — and came under fire from Arkansas fans for that and the mounting losses.
Bielema will look to end the turmoil and compete in an SEC West loaded with national powers Alabama and LSU, along with up-and-comer Texas A&M.
Long said during the season the new coach would be tasked with building on the recent success at the school, which is looking into expanding the 72,000-seat Razorback Stadium and is currently building an 80,000-square-foot football operations center.
"Our new coach will be an individual who shares the passion for success our fans do, and who is willing to work relentlessly to achieve our goals," Long said following the announcement of Smith's departure.