We all knew it was going to happen. For Bret Bielema, the writing has been on the wall for weeks now at Arkansas. After the removal of athletics director Jeff Long, it was a matter of “when” the school would cut loose on Bielema and look to turn the page to a new chapter of Arkansas football. Today, that page was turned and it happened as the ink was drying on the box score from a season-ending loss at home to Missouri.
The press release for Bielema’s statement was emailed out before Bielema got a chance to step to the podium, and whispers he had been informed as he was walking off the field needed a bit of a clarification from the fired head coach himself, but the swiftness Arkansas moved with this was not to be disputed. They knew Bielema was out, and they wasted no time in making it official.
Bret Bielema “I was informed coming off the field that I am no longer to coach of Arkansas. Never had this happen to me in my life so this is new for me.” pic.twitter.com/QMJjyDuyDL
— Pig Trail Nation (@PigTrailNation) November 24, 2017
Bielema was not fired walking off the field. He was informed in his game day office adjacent to the locker room after the game.
— Bo Mattingly (@SportsTalkwBo) November 25, 2017
Had Arkansas won against the Tigers, maybe a little more time would have passed before Arkansas made the change official, but time is an important factor right now in the end-of-the-year coaching carousel. The SEC already has three other programs looking for a new head coach with Ole Miss, Tennessee, and Florida all open. And rumors have suggested Texas A&M could quickly get in on the silly season after their game against LSU on Saturday. So if Arkansas had a short list of coaches they would like to pursue, the competition may already be heated just within their own conference.
Bielema had to go, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he is a bad coach. Prior to his arrival at Arkansas, Bielema routinely had Wisconsin competing for the Big Ten championship, and he left Madison just before the Badgers were about to make their third-straight appearance in the Rose Bowl. Bielema coached Wisconsin for seven years and accumulated a record of 68-24, but his five-year run at Arkansas ended with a record of 29-34 bookended by two losing seasons without a bowl trip. Arkansas ended each season under Bielema outside the AP Top 25 and never got any higher than No. 16 in the five-year run.
Do not be surprised if Bielema lands back on his feet as a head coach relatively quickly, perhaps even in this coaching carousel cycle. The question is where will he be the best fit? As odd as it may feel, Bielema as Nebraska’s head coach seems to make a lot of sense, although it would not be one that would resonate well with Nebraska fans trying to move on from their own dismal run with Mike Riley. But Bielema coaching in the Big Ten, and doing so in the Big Ten West, would be a near perfect situation for Bielema, and maybe even for Nebraska.
Arkansas has a rough situation on their hands now, as those with influence guiding the football program may not be the best-suited to make the best possible hire. But we shall see exactly what Arkansas does from here.