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:
Record shows Bielema easy target right now
Arkansas coach Bret Bielema speaks during a National Signing Day ceremony Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014, at the university's football complex.
A few years ago there was a Sports Illustrated television commercial that started out with a coach’s wife answering the phone and then calling upstairs to her husband that Sports Illustrated was on the line for him.
The coach came running down the stairs, made a comment about he knew this would happen sooner or later, grabbed the phone and said, “This is Coach.”
The voice on the other end replied that Sports Illustrated was running a special for new subscribers.
That commercial came to mind while reading Stewart Mandel’s column titled, “Explaining Arkansas’ Bret Bielema’s fall from coaching grace.”
It is not a hatchet piece, but it isn’t exactly what Bielema wants from SI either.
It is a well-written, well-documented column about Arkansas’ coach and his recent statements about why he is for a 10-second defensive substitution rule and his much regretted “death certificates” comment that he used to support the proposal.
Bielema has since apologized for his comments about the death of California player Ted Agu, who died during off season training.
Mandel quoted an outraged Sandy Barbour, Cal’s athletic director, who said Bielema’s comments were misinformed, ill-advised and beyond insensitive.
Again, it is not a hatchet piece, but it is not without venom either.
Mandel compared Bielema to Lane Kiffin, who is now muffled at Alabama, and said that Bielema is on his way to being college football’s most reviled figure.
That’s strong. Maybe too strong.
Bielema has fired from the lip a couple of times, but most coaches do.
It seems to this reporter that most people just don’t get why Bielema would leave Wisconsin for Arkansas, and because he did that there must be something wrong with him.
Most of the comments posted about the column were from Wisconsin fans and were not flattering, but from my vantage point it appears that Bielema is learning what it is like to be in the SEC.
If you are at Wisconsin and have three conference championships, you can say just about anything you want and not cause a national ruckus. If you are at Arkansas and have three victories, none in SEC play, you are definitely under a microscope.
Just how Bielema became the unofficial spokesman for the proposed rule change is a bit baffling. Even Steve Spurrier referred to it as Nick Saban’s rule. Saban has been very quiet about the subject. Maybe that is because he lives in the same state with Gus Malzahn, who proved at Auburn that a two-minute offense could be run successfully for an entire college game.
That is the problem some defensive-minded coaches have with the hurry-up, no-huddle offense. Stopping or slowing it.
The proposal is not going to pass. It probably won’t even get a vote.
Bielema knows the proposal isn’t going to pass whether he or Saban championed it, which may be why he made some defensive changes on his staff recently.
When you let anyone with a freshman quarterback - in this case LSU - drive 99 yards for a game-winning touchdown with 1:15 to play, you need to make changes.
Bielema had no way of knowing how far off course the Arkansas Razorbacks ship had wandered when he took the job. It is a monumental rebuilding task because there is speed and then there is SEC speed. The Hogs didn’t have enough speed, let alone SEC speed.
Until he starts to win some games, Bielema is going to be something of a target because he left Wisconsin for Arkansas.
Some people just don’t get quality of life, but you never hear a Southerner say they are going to retire up North.
Sports, Pages 17 on 02/27/2014