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.
Interest high for Hogs’ job
El Dorado News-Times/Michael Orrell Arkansas Razorback assistant coach Charlie Partridge scouts players during the El Dorado vs. Pine Bluff game at Memorial Stadium in El Dorado on Friday.
FAYETTEVILLE - More than 15 coaches had called Arkansas to discuss the team’s defensive line coach opening by the time departing coach Charlie Partridge had been introduced as Florida Atlantic University’s new head coach last Tuesday, Arkansas Coach Bret Bielema said.
“As is the case every time, I get blown away withcoaches that are very, very interested in leaving jobs,” Bielema said. “Some of them sometimes are in situations you can’t imagine.
But you never know what a person, where their mind is or what they’re going through.
“I think we have a very, very good spot here.
I think I’ve had a good reputation [of having] a good environment, a healthy environment that’s fun to work in. I think that’s the part that during a 3-9 season, you keep going back to, even like with recruiting.
“If you treat people right, you act right, you handle things right, people are going to want to come play for you and they’re going to want to come work for you.”Hog profit
Arkansas was deemed the 12th-most valuable college football program in the nation in a recent survey by Forbes magazine.
The Razorbacks were down four spots from their No. 8 ranking last year.
Forbes, which valued Arkansas football at $74 million with revenues of $61 million and a profit of $32 million, wrote: “Team profit is down some $8 million from 2011-12 thanks to the Razorbacks failing to make a bowl game last year while also bringing aboard a new coaching staff.”
It also pointed out the Razorbacks had to pay $1 million to buy out Bret Bielema’s Wisconsin contract.
Arkansas ranked sixth among SEC teams, behind No. 3 Alabama ($110 million value), No. 4 LSU ($105 million), No. 6 Florida ($94 million), No. 8 Georgia ($91 million), No. 11 Auburn ($77 million). Forbes deemed Texas as the most valuable program with a value of $139 million, while Notre Dame was No. 2 ($117 million).
Bret Bielema said he isn’t surprised that Auburn played its way into an SEC championship and a place in the BCS national title game.
“They put their kids in position to win, and they’re well-coached,” he said.
Bielema deftly sidestepped the question when asked if he was glad a loss in the Big Ten Championship Game by former rival Ohio State helped open the door for an SEC team to play for the league’s eighth consecutive national title.
“I wish there were two [SEC] teams playing for it,” Bielema said. “That was one of the main driving forces for why I came here, especially going into the world of college football playoffs next year with four teams. That’s huge.” Full-throttle
Bret Bielema arrived at Arkansas with the reputation for a gregarious nature, and he did nothing in his first season to diminish that.
Late in the year, Bielema seemed to be amused at how some of his straightforward statements - like saying the drive in from the hotel to many SEC venues in smaller towns like Oxford, Miss., was longer than the drives in the Big Ten - was construed as complaining and was criticized in some media outlets.
Asked if he anticipated dialing down his comments, Bielema seemed amused.
“I don’t know if I ever tone down,” he said, grinning. “I’m a full-throttle guy. I don’t hold back much.”Less than half
Arkansas was one of eight FBS teams to finish with a completion percentage less than 50 percent. The Razorbacks completed 150 of 301 passes for 49.8 percent completions, one catch away from eclipsing 50 percent.
The other teams were Western Michigan (49.1), Tulsa (49.0), Army (48.7), Kansas (46.8), Georgia Tech (46.8), South Florida (46.5) and Miami of Ohio (45.8).
Jen Bielema tweeted “#karma” after the bungled final few seconds of Wisconsin’s 32-30 loss at Arizona State on Sept.
14, and Bret Bielema’s detractors have gleefully pointed out that Arkansas - which was 3-0 at that time - lost its final nine games after the controversial Twitter post.
Bielema, asked about the incident this week, said the “interpretation got lost immediately” after his wife sent out the message.
“Jen had been through a lot,” he said. “When I left Wisconsin, when you leave something that is so good, people are never going to understand why you did it. I could have given a million reasons.
What I did was I gave the ones that were true, but people don’t want to hear that. They think they got snubbed.
“I get it. So when that happens, people say really stupid things and comment really bad things, I mean very poor taste. Threatening your safety, your health, your life, your dogs’ lives. She loves those two dogs. ‘Hope you burn in a car crash.
Hope you die in a plane.’ I mean, I’m flying around in a plane every day. Those aren’t good things, you know?
“I think when she sent that ‘karma,’ she was basically referring to anybody and everybody that had wished ill will on her or me, [that] you brought bad will … to a situation. That’s where it kind of got all lost in translation.
“Obviously we lost games after that and it became an easy pecking order, but I think the thing is, it’s behind us. It’s behind her especially. But again, I don’t want her to back down from protecting her safety or our spirit, my name and her name.”
Bret Bielema said linebacker Otha Peters was slowed last season by a groin issue, which limited him late in the year, and that he’s going to see a specialist for the issue.
“We’re sending him up to a specialist in Philadelphia that’ll look at his groin,” Bielema said. “I know he’s excited to hopefully get that thing back to being healthy, and hopefully he can hit the ground running in the spring.” Gus discuss
Bret Bielema said he and Auburn Coach Gus Malzahn “joked” on the field prior to their game in Fayetteville this fall about how they had unwittingly been paired as sparring partners during the summer regarding the hurry up offense.
Malzahn remarked at SEC media days he at first thought it was a joke when reporters passed along Bielema’s concerns about the injury factor for football players who either run or defend against ahurry-up, no-huddle attack like Auburn’s. Bielema, apprised of Malzahn’s comments, replied that he wasn’t a comedian.
“We both joked on that [game] day that it was kind of the perfect storm that both of us walked into,” Bielema said. “I had no idea he had said anything. He had no idea that I had said anything.
“It was just kind of like, ‘Of course they’re [the media] going to run with it.’”
Bielema said the two exchanged phone numbers with the intention that if either had issues or concerns they could call the other.
Bret Bielema had a meeting with Razorback Foundation personnel Wednesday to discuss the Razorback Club meeting schedule. Details will be forthcoming soon.
Bielema attended and spoke at 20-plus club functions last year, essentially every one on the banquet schedule, which won’t be the case this year.
“Just with my agenda and what I’ve got to get done, I won’t agree to that many,” Bielema said. “But I’ll do anything that I can promote the goodwill of the university.”
Asked if he felt compelled to speak to fans to reassure them the program is on the right track, Bielema said “I’m not in the game of reassurance.”
“I’m just going to do what we do,” he said. “That reassures me on a daily basis how good we are and what we’re going to do.”
Sports, Pages 31 on 12/22/2013