Wally Hall is the managing sports editor for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Arkansas-Little Rock after an honorable discharge from the U.S. Air Force, he is a past president and member of the Football Writers Association of America, member of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association, past president and current executive committee and board member of the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame, and voter for the Heisman Trophy.
LIKE IT IS:
UA fans will love Bielema’s eye for detail
STAFF PHOTO ANDY SHUPE -- Former Arkansas athletics director Frank Broyles, left, speaks Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2012, with Bret Bielema, right, following a press conference to announce Bielema's hire as Razorbacks football coach in Fayetteville.
LITTLE ROCK After the most tumultuous day in Arkansas football history, acceptance and perspective seem to have come with Wednesday’s sunrise.
The Arkansas Razorbacks have a surprise new head coach who could become very popular very quickly.
Arkansas State was stood up at the altar after making tons of promises, raising lots of cash and making good on every promise. Gus Malzahn left ASU for Auburn and will not be coaching the Red Wolves in the GoDaddy.com Bowl on Jan. 6 in Mobile, Ala.
Arkansas State could do a lot worse than Bobby Petrino, the former Arkansas Razorbacks coach who has admitted his mistake and apologized on national television.He deserves a second chance, he would win and he would generate ticket sales and drive donations.
As for new Arkansas Coach Bret Bielema, accounts of him are that he is an outgoing guy, gregarious and friendly off the field. On the field, he is a disciplinarian with an eye for detail.
He has a strong background as a defensive coordinator, and that is a must to win the SEC championship,but his reputation for running on first and second down every time is exaggerated.
As a head coach, 65 percent of the plays called were for a run, but with checkoffs, the execution of running plays was just 51 percent. He’s put quarterbacks in the NFL.
So he’s not quite like Darrell Royal, who once said three things can happen when you pass and two of them are bad.
The biggest challenge Bielema may face is assembling a staff. It is almost essential that he hire at least two guys who can recruit and sign kids from Texas. He personally has recruited Florida with success.
He must change his mindset, if he hasn’t already, about recruiting kids who haveorally committed to other schools, because the first person he needs to re-recruit is North Little Rock’s Altee Tenpenny, who could be a star in Bielema’s offense.
More than likely, Bielema knows he will need to tweak some of his thinking, but change is something he has seemed to adapt to, and hard work could be his middle name. Most of his life growing up, he literally got up before dawn to work on his family’s hog farm. His responsibility was cleaning the pig pens.
He went to Iowa as a walkon defensive end and became the starting nose guard. When he won a scholarship, he celebrated by getting a tigerhawk tattoo on his left calf with the words “Believe” and“Achieve.”
Although he was a bachelor until he was 42, he is very family-oriented. He likes to have friends over and cook for them, and when his mother was diagnosed with cancer, he started Football 101 at Wisconsin and donated all the proceeds to the Madison affiliate of the Susan G. Komen Foundation.
He’s known heartache, too. As a player in 1990, after beating Michigan, he received the news that his sister, Betsy, who was doing charity work for underprivileged children in the Seattle area, had been thrown by a horse and had died. That led Bielema to become involved with Big Brothers Big Sisters and the American Family Children’s Hospital.
He also may have more appreciation for Arkansas than originally thought. His aunt and uncle, Mary Lou and Gary Huitink, live in Little Rock.
It seems that while the Badgers Nation was hungry for a Rose Bowl victory, most were sad to see Bielema leave and a little confused that he did.
A lot of people don’t understand the allure of coaching in the SEC.
For the Razorbacks Nation, the main thing is they have a coach who is ready to work, and that includes hitting the recruiting trails asap.
Sports, Pages 17 on 12/06/2012