Bret Bielema came to Arkansas in 2012, on the heels of Bobby Petrino’s ill-fated motorcycle ride. Fayetteville seemed a lateral move, at best, from his salad days at Wisconsin. Bielema had racked up an impressive 68-24 record with two Big 10 Ten Titles and three Rose Bowl appearances in Madison.
But, tired of being cheaped out on by Barry Alvarez and seeing a Top-15 team in need of stability, BB sent a now-famous letter to Hogs’ AD Jeff Long, praising the latter’s moral clarity in a win-at-all-cost sport and league.
In the end, his ploy worked: Bielema was brought in to play by the rules, graduate players, keep them off of police blotters, and keep the Hogs in contention. In this case, three out of four weren’t good enough.
After five disappointing seasons, where Bielema went 29-35, and finished in the Top 3 of the West just once, Arkansas made the predictable call:
Press release from Arkansas on Bret Bielema’s firing. pic.twitter.com/EiOprn3dDd— Bo Mattingly (@SportsTalkwBo) November 24, 2017
The timing is (almost) perfect for the ‘Hogs, who are expected to pursue Gus Malzahn following the conclusion of Auburn’s season. An Iron Bowl loss would presumably see almost immediate noise in that direction. This is some small distraction in Alabama’s favor, at least. Otherwise, the Hogs are free to compete with Tennessee, who is also eyeing Memphis’ Mike Norvell. Arkansas is also expected to open the pocketbook to put Iowa State’s Matt Campbell on its short Rolodex.
While the firing was expected and necessary, like Kevin Sumlin at A&M, the university handled this one about as tacky as possible: firing him as he left field at the end of a close, painful loss.
His team deserved some time, the seniors deserved a better farewell, and Bielema, who by all accounts was the portrait of class in Fayetteville, deserved a night with his players and coaches. A team meeting and a termination letter could have waited 12 hours.
Bret Bielema “I was informed coming off the field that I am no longer to coach of Arkansas. Never had this happen to me in my life so this is new for me.” pic.twitter.com/QMJjyDuyDL— Pig Trail Nation (@PigTrailNation) November 24, 2017
In the end he just couldn’t recruit, couldn’t develop teams along the lines, couldn’t shore up the defense, and couldn’t catch a break — having never had a healthy offense once in his five years. Bielema needed to go...tomorrow. And you have to think Jeff Long, who was unceremoniously and surprisingly dumped last week, would have given him that courtesy.