This note served its purpose. You and others are debating the primary and secondary meaning of the note is proof that it worked. It put Bielema on the radar while allowing him to deny interest in the job if the situation blew up in his face.
Already months into a coaching search, Arkansas AD Jeff Long received in September a note from then-Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema. In it the Badgers’ coach praised Long’s decision to blow up Bobby Petrino as “the right call!”
Three months later, Bielema was named the Razorbacks’ new head football coach. And his handwritten note has hit the internet (courtesy of a Freedom of Information request):
If you can’t make that out, here’s the text:
Just wanted to say this note is long past due. As I watched your press conference this past spring I wanted to reach out and say how much I respected your actions but more importantly your words. As a head coach I know that my comments are looked at in every way possible. Here at UW I have a great AD because he is a man of his word and asks the same for all of us. Best wishes moving forward and stay strong. I twas the right call!
P.S. One thing I have learned through my time at UW is that today’s society wants to win them all, but as Coaches and Administrators we need to balance the Big Picture for all our student-athletes!”
One wonders what led Bielema to send a note to another school’s AD just as his own season was getting underway and not at the time of the actual Petrino firing. Or at some point over the summer.
Instead, Bielema didn’t send the note until sometime in September. Now, if the undated note was sent in early September, then it might have just been something that popped into the coach’s head after a long delay. If it was sent later in the month, then it’s possible Bielema was genuinely trying to encourage Long as Arkansas’ football team lost to Louisiana-Monroe and then went downhill from there.
Or Bielema — wanting out of Alvarez’s shadow — might have been trying to get his name into the mix for a job that would obviously come open and not go to interim coach John L. Smith.
(You can bet that freshly hired Western Kentucky coach Bobby Petrino — who gets to open the 2013 season against the Kentucky and Tennessee programs that chose not to interview or hire him — would love to get a crack at Bielema someday.)
None of this is to suggest that Bielema did anything wrong in mailing a simple note of encouragement to Long. We just find the timing to be… interesting.