Nate Allen is a columnist for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Missouri, Allen is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and voter for the Heisman Trophy. He has authored three books about the Razorbacks.
Bielema says no regrets with move
Arkansas coach Bret Bielema instructs players prior to an Oct. 19, 2013 game against Alabama at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
FAYETTEVILLE - Of course Bret Bielema answered the question, “No.”
It would seem hard put for him to remain at Arkansas had he answered otherwise.
However unless he is an Academy Award worthy actor, the conviction in his face and voice belies that Bielema really doesn’t look back upon leaving Wisconsin for Arkansas.
That’s a lot not to look back upon. From 2006-2012 as Wisconsin’s head coach, Bielema went 68-24 and led the Badgers to a bowl game every year.
Inheriting the remnants of interim coach John L. Smith’s 4-8 postscript to the Bobby Petrino era, Bielema’s first Arkansas season marked the Razorbacks’ first-ever SEC winless campaign, 0-8 in the league and 3-9 overall.
Any regrets he didn’t stay in that Wisconsin comfort zone?
“Not at all,” Bielema said. “Notonce.”
He says he has taken most every career step, beginning with walking on to play for the University of Iowa, without regret and against majority advice.
“Everything I have ever done - going into college I could have gone to places that in theory wanted me more and people thought I should but I wanted to walk on and prove what I did,” Bielema said.
Bielema then coached Iowa linebackers before going to Kansas State under Bill Snyder and on to Wisconsin under Barry Alvarez, the athletic director/coach who promoted Bielema to head coach in 2006 upon deciding to just be the AD.
“I was at Iowa and everybody told me I was nuts to go to Kansas State as a co-coordinator,” Bielema said. ” It got me my defensive coordinator position [at Wisconsin] in two years. And when I went to Wisconsin everybody said, ‘What are you going there for? Everything is rolling at Kansas State.’”
Bielema said the very K-State office he occupied previously was manned by Snyder-trained-turned-head-coaches Bob Stoops (Oklahoma), Jim Leavitt (South Florida) and Mike Stoops (Arizona).
“Bill Snyder put all these people into being head coaches but I thought my best move was Wisconsin,” Bielema said. “I ended up doing exactly what I thought, getting the head coaching job and doing the job I did there. It’s been awesome. But I wanted to do something that was on the shoulders of what I came to do. What I knew I could do as a head coach and get it to where we need to be.”
After the 3-9 debut with the Razorbacks, does Bielema still see Arkansas potential that attracted him to Fayetteville?
“Probably even more so,” Bielema said. “I know where we came in such a short amount of time. I know our roster, not only last year’s recruiting class but this year’s recruiting class where we are at, and an opportunity to get better as a staff.”
Bielema said the 2013 SEC Championship Game between Auburn and Missouri is an inspiration given both teams didn’t reach bowl games in 2012.
“To have two teams playing in the SEC Championship that had won one combined game the year before in the SEC speaks volumes of what you can do,” Bielema said.
Sports, Pages 16 on 01/20/2014