Like It Is:

Super Bowl-bound Bielema owes Arkansas a check

By: Wally Hall
Published: Wednesday, January 23, 2019
New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick, left, and former Arkansas coach Bret Bielema, center, walk the field during Alabama's Pro Day, Wednesday, March 7, 2018, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. The event is to showcase players for the upcoming NFL football draft. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick, left, and former Arkansas coach Bret Bielema, center, walk the field during Alabama's Pro Day, Wednesday, March 7, 2018, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. The event is to showcase players for the upcoming NFL football draft. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

Bret Bielema is an unflappable and very likeable guy, but shame on him.

Fired as the head coach at the University of Arkansas, Bielema landed a consulting job with the New England Patriots and could collect a Super Bowl ring in his first season in the NFL.

Nobody is quite sure what Bielema will make for his year as a consultant to the head coach, but not one penny of that is taken off his $320,000-a-month payment the UA owes him in severance pay.

That stupid contract Jeff Long drew up, which was approved by his bosses, not only called for Bielema to get an $11.8 million buyout if fired but also that he could make up to $150,000 a year in a new job without counting against his payout.

Contracts usually protect the school, but not the ones Long drew up. For him it was coaches first, athletic directors second, and the school and program somewhere down the line.

Shame on Long — and Kansas better double-check every contract he proposes — but also shame on Bielema.

When you make $320,000 a month, whatever the Patriots are paying him is chump change.

No way should Bielema give the UA its severance money back or refuse it — Arkansas has to live with that stupid contract and all the things Long did as athletic director, including being rude to fans, members of the board of trustees and others.

Long was not a people person, unless you were a coach or player. Ever heard the term jock sniffer?

What Bielema should do is sit down and write a check to the UA for whatever he was paid to give advice to Bill Belichick, who doesn’t seem like the advice-receiving type.

Bielema wasn’t mistreated by Arkansas, so he should bear no grudges. He just wasn’t getting the job done. Sure his firing could have been handled a little better, but has there ever been a perfect firing?

Granted, losing — or at least not winning consistently — should be just grounds for termination. How does a contract get written up that rewards failure?

Anyway, Bielema and the Patriots are headed to the Super Bowl, where most likely the G.O.A.T. Tom Brady will get the ball with 1:57 to play and lead New England 87 yards in six plays for the 42-38 win.

Bielema will get a Super Bowl ring, but the day after the game he reportedly will be headed to Miami to become the Dolphins’ defensive line coach under new Coach Brian Flores, who is the Patriots’ defensive coordinator but reportedly will accept the Dolphins’ position after the season. That was another reward Bielema got for being in the New England organization for several months — he met and impressed Flores.

It didn’t hurt Bielema that Trey Flowers and Deatrich Wise have become a major part of the Pats’ defensive line. They played for Bielema at Arkansas.

Taking your talents to South Beach should pay Bielema about $900,000 to $1.2 million a year.

That would lighten the UA’s load considerably, and the Razorback Foundation could use the money. Ticket sales have been off a little in football and even more in basketball, and that’s a loss in revenue plus a drop in donations. Those donations are no longer tax deductible, so the future is a bit shaky.

Bielema obviously could afford to do the right thing and give the UA his salary from the Patriots and still have plenty of money to take his buddy Dan Enos out for dinner. Enos has joined the Miami Hurricanes as offensive coordinator. He hated the idea of meeting with Nick Saban so much that he decided to stop doing so.

Here’s to nothing but success and happiness for Bielema, but he needs to do the right thing and write the check.

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