LOL. Wisconsin won in spite of fat boy, not because of him. Terrible hire for Wisconsin, and an even worse hire for Arkansas who won't be able to work around a terrible coach and recruiter as well as Wisconsin did. This fat clown will be kicked to the curb after a few 3 or 4 win seasons at Arkansas. Meanwhile WI will be winning 10+ games each of those seasons.
When the out-of-nowhere news of Bret Bielema’s move from Wisconsin to Arkansas first leaked out a year ago, there were gasps from the Dells to the Ozarks. How in the world did Razorback AD Jeff Long pull off such a coup?
Of the four SEC jobs open, Arkansas scored the man with the best track record as a head coach. Easily.
Bielema was no up-and-comer. He was a seven-year vet. He hadn’t won at a small school, he’d won at one of the top programs in the country. The 43-year-old had earned three Rose Bowl berths in a row at Wisconsin. he’d put together a 12-win season, two 11-win seasons, and one 10-win campaign.
Put simply, Bielema was a home run hire.
But to date, he’s looked like a home run hitter in Triple A ball, not the majors. And that’s not just a knock on his record to date.
You know the situation in Fayetteville this year. The Hogs entered the season with a roster built to play Bobby Petrino’s spread passing game. Their defense had never been a strong point under their ex-coach (or under interim coach John L. Smith last season). A new quarterback would have to be broken in to boot.
So it’s way too early to doubt Bielema’s ability to coach. Even if his first Arkansas team is 3-7 on the year, 0-6 in the SEC (for the first time ever), and riding a seven-game losing streak. Such a skid matches the worst runs in school history.
In its last seven games UA has lost by four to Rutgers, by 12 to Texas A&M, by 20 to Florida, by 45 to South Carolina, by 52 to Alabama, by 18 to Auburn, and by 10 to Ole Miss over the weekend. The Razorbacks are last in the SEC in scoring offense and 13th in scoring defense.
Yes, they’re bad. Injuries haven’t helped. But Bielema knows how to coach. We just wonder if he’s ready to coach in the SEC.
Dragging behind Bielema like a Dickensian chain is his famous February of 2012 comment:
“I can tell you this, we at the Big Ten don’t want to be like the SEC — in any way, shape or form.”
Bielema was hot and bothered by newly-arrived Ohio State coach Urban Meyer daring to break a gentleman’s agreement that Big Ten coaches would not recruit kids already committed to other Big Ten teams. But the “in any way, shape or form” part of the quote suggests Bielema wasn’t a fan of Mike Slive’s conference in many, many areas… not just its recruiting tactics.
Since arriving down South, Bielema has blown his cool at SEC Media Days when he overreacted to a quote from Gus Malzahn that was taken out of context. He’s broken an SEC rule by talking about an alleged Auburn rule violation regarding the exchange of game tape. The guy clearly has issues with Gus Malzahn. Last week he said he wasn’t thrilled with the hotel situation in Oxford, Mississippi as his team would have to bus an hour-plus from Memphis for the game. Specifically he noted “the location of some of these universities and the towns around them.”
“Small things, one and all,” will say the folks in the plastic Hog hats. But we’re not so sure. In fact, we’re starting to think a do-over is in order from our June view that Bielema would be the new SEC hire most likely to have long-term success. Oh, he could still be that guy. He did win all those games at Wisconsin. But he just doesn’t seem to fit the Southeastern Conference. At least not yet. Which seems obvious in hindsight when tied to his statement that he wanted nothing to do with the league just 20+ months ago.
From that comment to the thin skin displayed at Media Days to his disapproval of some SEC schools’ locations in small towns, Arkansas’ new coach seems like he’s got a bigger learning curve than one would have thought at first blush. Toss in the fact that Bielema’s current class of commitments is ranked #36 nationally by Rivals.com (13th best in the SEC and 10 spots behind Wisconsin) and there’s added reason for concern.
Bielema was never a top o’ the line recruiter in Madison. With his style of play — smashmouth on offense, solid on defense — he’ll have to lure more talent to Arkansas in the SEC than he ever did to Wisconsin in the slower Big Ten.
Hey, we’re not calling Bielema a bad hire at this juncture. It’s way, way, way too early for that.
But we do believe he may have been a fish-out-of-water hire. Because of that, it appears his adjustment to life in the Southeastern Conference will take a bit longer than we expected. And certainly longer than Razorback fans anticipated.