Tom Murphy is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of Louisiana Tech University, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and voter for the Heisman Trophy and AP Top 25 football poll.
Note sent by Bielema to UA's Long handed out
FILE - In this Nov. 24, 2012, file photo, Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema shouts from the sidelines during an NCAA college football game against Penn State in State College, Pa. . A person familiar with the situation tells The Associated Press on Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2012, that Bielema has agreed to become the new coach at Arkansas. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File)
FAYETTEVILLE New Arkansas football Coach Bret Bielema lauded Jeff Long, his new boss, for his actions in dealing with the Bobby Petrino scandal in a handwritten note that included the line “It was the right call!” The note was released Monday by the University of Arkansas.
Long, Arkansas’ athletic director, discussed the impact the note made on him, saying it was one of less than three or four he received from college coaches, in his search to replace interim coach John L. Smith, which led to his hiring of Bielema last Tuesday.
Long held two dramatic news conferences in April, one to announce Petrino had been placed on leave April 5, and the next five days later to terminate Petrino for cause. Petrino had hired 25-year-old Jessica Dorrell over more than 100 other applicants for a position in the the football program, then failed to disclose her presence during his motorcycle wreck April 1 and his inappropriate relationship with her until just before the release of an Arkansas State Police report on the accident.
“Jeff, Just wanted to say that 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 important 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 & asks the same for all of us. Best wishes moving forward and stay strong. It was the right call! Best wishes, Bret”
The note did not include a mailing date, nor the date it was received, though Long said last week he thought it was in September.
As a postscript, Bielema wrote, “One thing I have learned through my time here at UW is that today’s society wants to win them all, but as Coaches & Administrators we need to balance the Big Picture for all our student athletes!”
Some Wisconsin fans, who learned of Bielema’s note when Bielema referenced it at his introductory Arkansas news conference last Wednesday, saw it as a sign Bielema was angling for the Razorbacks’ job early in the fall.
Bielema disputed that during an appearance last week on the Jim Rome Show, a nationally syndicated radio program, saying he frequently pens handwritten notes to those who impress him in the college football industry. Rome concurred, saying he received letters from Bielema after each of his appearances on the show.
Sports, Pages 17 on 12/11/2012