FAYETTEVILLE -- Arkansas Razorbacks Coach Bret Bielema reflected for a moment at his weekly news conference Monday when asked whether he's given any thought to the idea Friday's game against Missouri could be his last at Arkansas.
"There's just little moments, you know, that you realize those things," Bielema said. "I know that none of it is regret, none of it is remorse, none of it is second-guessing.
"It's just I have so much faith in what we've built and what could be here. There's already going to be so much transition in our league, which I think is a positive to stay constant."
Bielema's five-year tenure at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville is in jeopardy. The team's 4-7 record, including a 1-6 mark in SEC games, has dropped his overall record at Arkansas to 29-33 and 11-28 in the SEC. The dismissal of Athletic Director Jeff Long on Wednesday by UA Chancellor Joe Steinmetz after a closed-door meeting with the board of trustees six days earlier is not a positive signal for the typically upbeat Bielema.
"I know we want more wins," he said. "I want more wins. The wins will come."
Bielema referenced bounce backs by various teams and coaches, such as his close friend Mark Dantonio at Michigan State and Mississippi State's Dan Mullen, who recovered from last year's 6-7 record to improve to 8-3 and No. 16 in the latest College Football Playoff rankings. He also pointed to Notre Dame's rebound this year.
"All these teams had a dip-down year," Bielema said. "Now, I didn't have the prior success, I get it. But what we took over, what we've built and what's coming back is a very exciting time."
Arkansas coordinators Dan Enos and Paul Rhoads were also asked about the growing speculation regarding the future of Bielema and the staff.
"It's not fun. It's not good," said Enos, the offensive coordinator. "It's harder on families than us. We get isolated and we're in here coaching and doing our deal. I think it's really, really difficult on the kids and the wives because they're out in the community, kids hear things at school and things like that.
"It's really a tough part of the business. It really is. I know people say, 'Well you decided to be a coach, you knew what you were getting in to.' And yeah, that's true, but my wife and kids don't deserve that and neither do all the other coaches. That's what is hard."
Rhoads, asked the same question, had a moment of levity.
"People are talking about that?" Rhoads asked.
Then he turned thoughtful.
"You know, 29 years of being in it and I've been hired, been fired," he said. "Been that way as a head coach, been that way as a coordinator, and been that way as a complete staff.
"You do the best you can. You do it every day. You don't back off that. You don't change course."
Rhoads lauded his wife, Vickie, and talked about his sons Jake and Wyatt, as well as his dismissal as Iowa State head coach in 2015 after a seven-year run.
"I'm very fortunate to have a tremendous coach's wife who's been through it as well," Rhoads said. "She gets it. She understands it. She's able to block it out just as well as I am.
"I have two grown sons who lived it playing for me, when their old man got fired. So we come by it honestly and appreciate the fact it goes along with the profession, and you can't change who you are or what you're doing."
Enos gave a lengthy, passionate response when asked about the speculation, saying he wished his wife Jane and their children Lia and Alex didn't have to hear the chatter.
"We can take it. We can handle it," he said. "Obviously when you're 4-7, we know people aren't going to be running around trying to have a parade for us or build statues of us in front of the stadium. We get all that.
"But it's tough to watch your family go through stuff. I just continually use it as learning moments for my children, as life's not always easy, life's not always fair. There's going to be adversity in life and you have to fight through it and you have to ... as my dad used to always say, 'You have to keep your hands up, keep your chin down and just keep punching.' "
Bielema said quarterback Austin Allen's remarks about wanting to win the game for him Saturday got back to him.
"I love my guys," Bielema said, starting to choke up. "They're awesome. So it is what it is."
Later Bielema was asked about the emotional nature of the season.
"When I first got here, I always used to talk to our players about 'You've got to care enough to cry,' " he said. "A lot of times people want to jab me when things aren't going right -- 'Bielema's going to cry, right?' I like people. I like our players. I want them to have success. There's nothing wrong with that."
Bielema said his staff has put together some information which shows a large portion -- perhaps as much as 80 percent of the team's offensive production in yardage and scoring -- has come from first- and second-year players.
"Our roster is just filled with sophomores and freshmen, juniors that will be back for their senior year," he said. "Have a good plan for us in defensive recruiting as we move forward."
Bielema said he has given that material to interim Athletic Director Julie Cromer Peoples, who has been the sport administrator in football the past two years.
"My goal is to put our best performance on Friday, hopefully try to get ourselves a victory," Bielema said. "Saturday, regroup during the morning, hop on a plane and get recruiting on Saturday night and Sunday morning."
Sports on 11/21/2017
Print Headline: Reflective Bielema insists no 'regrets'