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 member and past president 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. He has been awarded Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year 10 times and has been inducted into the Arkansas Sportswriters and Sportscasters Hall of Fame.
Like It Is:
Foundation should be free of Bielema burden
New England Patriots defensive line coach Bret Bielema watches during an NFL preseason football game against the Detroit Lions in Detroit, Thursday, Aug. 8, 2019. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
It has become fairly common knowledge that the Razorback Foundation, with the blessing of the University of Arkansas, decided former head coach Bret Bielema was not living up to his end of the contract.
His contract called for him to actively pursue another job.
Instead, Bielema became a volunteer for the New England Patriots for more than a year. Then it was announced he would become the defensive line coach for the Patriots in 2019.
From the time he was fired at Arkansas in November 2017 until Dec. 31, 2018, the Foundation paid him $320,833.33 every month, but nothing since.
He would have received 37 of those payments totaling $11,935,000.
Instead of having his agent seek jobs, Bielema was happy to help the Patriots and let the Razorback Foundation allow him and his family to live a life of luxury.
His Arkansas contract, approved by former athletic director Jeff Long, even allowed Bielema to make $50,000 a year and it not count against his monthly payments from his buyout.
No wonder Long was fired first.
It now seems Bielema, through his agent Neil Cornrich, is fighting back, and the whole thing may be headed to court.
If the Patriots are sticking it to the Razorback Foundation and paying Bielema just $50,000 a year, then shame on a team owner who may have spent that much at massage parlors.
And shame on Bielema for not seeking a full-time job within weeks of being fired.
He was very hireable off his Wisconsin resume — probably not in the SEC, but certainly in other conferences.
Maybe it isn’t so odd that Long, who became athletic director at Kansas, chose to hire Les Miles as his football coach instead of Bielema.
Long thought he had taken care of Bielema for life.
If the Razorback Foundation is successful — and it should be — it could save more than $7 million of that Bielema buyout.
That could be huge for the Foundation.
More than $1 million worth of tickets are going unsold each game, partly because of the product on the field. Donors also no longer receive tax deductions, making it harder and harder to raise money.
Not to mention the debt service on the bonds that were purchased to add 3,200 seats at Reynolds Razorback Stadium at a cost of $159 million. As former UA board of trustees member David Pryor said, nothing in that addition was for the students.
Of course, there’s always a chance of a negotiated settlement between the Foundation and Bielema.
Apparently, Bielema has the backing of the Patriots.
There is obvious concern from fans about the University of Arkansas losing football recruits.
While that is normal, not all the recruits are bailing because of what they see on the field.
Chad Morris will say it was by mutual agreement that one of the recruits decommitted, but the truth is the head coach pulled the offer during the visit.
Let’s just say Morris wasn’t pleased with what went on off the field.
USA Today ran its annual list of coaches’ salaries, and No. 1 was Clemson’s Dabo Swinney at $9,315,600. Nick Saban was No. 2 at $8,857,000, but Saban has other perks, such as rent-free housing.
Arkansas’ Chad Morris was No. 28 at $4 million, which ranks him No. 8 in the SEC.
Texas A&M’s Jimbo Fisher was No. 4 at $7.5 million. He’s 13-7 at A&M, and 7-5 in SEC play. Of course, his salary was based on what he did at Florida State, where he was 83-23 and won the 2013 national championship.
His buyout is the highest in the country at $60 million. Morris’ buyout is about $10 million.
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