New coach just needs a little time, patience

Published: Wednesday, December 12, 2012
After nine years at Wisconsin, including seven as the school’s head coach, Bret Bielema looks to turn around Arkansas’ program.
After nine years at Wisconsin, including seven as the school’s head coach, Bret Bielema looks to turn around Arkansas’ program.

— Some day more people will remember Bobby Petrino for what he did right than his wrongs.

For sure he has always had supporters who didn’t care about the wrongs, they just wanted to win and thought Petrino was the only guy who could do that at Arkansas.

That simply isn’t the case. It just won’t be done the way Petrino did it.

Bret Bielema brings his own philosophy to Arkansas, but one thing that was truly impressive the day he was introduced as the new head football coach for the Razorbacks was that he didn’t use the same old tired line of “Wait until I get my players here to run my scheme.”

Instead, he said he would adjust to the talent that was already on campus.

Not making a comparison here, but that was Paul “Bear” Bryant’s way of thinking, too.

He didn’t try to make Kenny Stabler or Joe Namath run the option. He coached a pro style offense. When his quarterbacks changed, so did his style.

That’s not to say Bielema isn’t going to try and feature a big back if he gets one. When you have a great player, someone like a Darren McFadden, you want them getting touches.

Bielema seems like a no excuses kind of guy.

Granted, he has a lot to learn about the South. Fortunately, his wife was raised in Florida and she can help him understand we are a chatty bunch.

We ask questions and give opinions.

We say please and thank you, although that is disappearing faster than sportsmanship in the NBA.

We offer to buy a steak and baked potato and consider that a gourmet meal.

He’ll get that, and more than likely he’s already been warned that this state probably files the most Freedom of Information requests of any in the country. From media and the fans.

He probably has an idea about the passion. He got an Iowa tattoo when he was given a scholarship, and he’s played at Michigan and Ohio State.

The biggest knock on him so far has come from some who are trying to say that a handwritten note he sent to Jeff Long was really a fishing expedition.

It probably wasn’t meant to be, but taking that little bit of time and doing something encouraging most likely put him on Long’s radar. Knowing Long, there is no doubt that when he received the note he started researching a head coach who would be that courageous and courteous.

He obviously liked what he learned.

That’s not to say Bielema was the first choice. We may never know that.

It doesn’t really matter now. He is the eighth head football coach of the Razorbacks since Frank Broyles retired after the 1976 season.

He’ll be the eighth to be put on a pedestal immediately and expected to be perfect.

He’ll be the eighth to have the opportunity to take himself too seriously.

He’ll be the eighth to have too many expectations thrown on him.

The initial reaction is he may be as grounded as Ken Hatfield, as competitive as Lou Holtz and as determined as Broyles himself.

The guy cleaned pigsties. He was a walk-on who earned a scholarship. He led Wisconsin to three consecutive Rose Bowls as a coach.

You don’t become a head football coach in the Big Ten at the age of 35 unless you are grounded, competitive and determined.

Petrino is now the head coach at Western Kentucky, a punishing drop from Arkansas and the SEC.

Bret Bielema is the new head football coach at Arkansas, and what he needs is patience from the fans.

It will take a couple of years to get his players in. He didn’t have to say it, but everyone should know it.

Sports, Pages 19 on 12/12/2012