Bielema brings APR success

By: Logan Wilson
Published: Tuesday, June 11, 2013
Wisconsin football earned APR recognition awards from the NCAA in Bret Bielema's final two full years.
Wisconsin football earned APR recognition awards from the NCAA in Bret Bielema's final two full years.

— When Bret Bielema was named the Arkansas head football coach last December, his resume consisted of more than three consecutive Big Ten titles and Rose Bowl appearances.

In his time at Wisconsin, the Badgers' football program posted Academic Progress Rate scores among the best in college football, including a perfect 1,000 single-year score in 2010-11. The Wisconsin football team received the APR Public Recognition Award once again for the 2011-12 academic year, finishing in the top 10 percent of all teams with a 994 single-year and 985 multi-year rate, which also led the Big Ten and was third in the College Football Bowl Subdivision.

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Jon Fagg, the senior associate athletics director for compliance and student-athlete services at the University of Arkansas, said Bielema's success with the APR was one of the factors that led to his hiring.

“I knew from my perspective, and I don’t want to speak for Jeff (Long), but from my perspective, it was a real component," Fagg said. "When you look at Bret’s athletic success, that was really clear. There were three things that got me, when I was looking at it.

"His athletic success, his lack of off-the-field problems. I mean if you go back and look at the time that Bret was coach at Wisconsin, he had virtually no arrests. Literally, virtually none. And then his APR success. To me, that says that’s an unbelievable coach as a teacher and a mentor. And that’s certainly what he seems to be proving so far with us."

The Arkansas football team recorded a 924 single-year score for the 2011-12 academic year, which included the Razorbacks' final season under former head coach Bobby Petrino. That score is below the benchmark number of 930, but the multi-year APR score, which spans four academic years, is still 938.

Although Fagg credited the coaching staff Petrino left behind for staying focused on academics during a forgettable football season, he said Bielema brings a new approach to academics.

“Bret has really come in and made a renewed, a different commitment to academic performance," Fagg said. "Bret weaves academic performance into the daily lives of our student-athletes just differently than we have had previously. Not saying better or worse, just differently.

“They generally talk about it all the time. Without speaking for Coach Bielema, from my vantage point, I watch them talk about the need to take care of business off the field to ensure you can take care of business on the field. Lots of coaches around the country talk about translating their discipline from the field to the classroom. Bret talks about it an opposite manner. Translating your discipline from the classroom and off the field to the field. And they really go hand in hand for him."

The APR scores for the football team next year will include a fall semester with John L. Smith as the head coach and a spring with Bielema as the head coach, but Fagg said he does not expect the transitions to impact the team's score too much.

“I think in general, football is a little different animal," Fagg said. "Because there are so many points that come into play, but certainly we track on it very careful and we are constantly talking about what it looks like. From the fall, we start looking at it will be for the spring and I don’t think we’ll have a problem."

Fagg wouldn't give the exact figure, but said the team's cumulative grade point average in the spring was one of its best ever.

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