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.
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