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story.lead_photo.caption Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema walks on the sideline in the second half of an NCAA college football game against LSU in Baton Rouge, La., Saturday, Nov. 11, 2017. LSU won 33-10. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

It is hard not to admire Bret Bielema right now.

The head coach at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville knows his fate is sealed. His defense can build on last week's game and the whole team can decide to send the seniors out on a positive note by beating Missouri, and nothing is changing for Bielema.

All indications are he won't be back, and he's taking it like -- and yes, to some this may be politically incorrect -- a man of integrity.

In this time of crushing emotion while facing just his second losing season -- his first and probably his last at Arkansas -- he's not pointing fingers at anyone. He's not overusing the fact he's had a bunch of injuries, starting with last year's SEC leading rusher Rawleigh Williams and All-American center Frank Ragnow.

He didn't even get testy when asked whether he had given any thought to this being his last game at Arkansas.

He said he understands the fans want to win. He believes he is close, and he believes that with all of his heart.

He did get a little sentimental, and he's never left a doubt he likes Arkansas. Since the day he arrived he has fit in. He never wanted Arkansans to act like they were northerners. He embraced the state, the history and tradition, and tried to be part of it.

The same for his wife Jen, who had to sell their house, pack up and move all by herself, arriving after he did. This kind of situation is hard on a wife, especially after having their first child last summer.

Bielema has zero experience for the moments he is living today.

His first season at Wisconsin he went 12-1, with his only loss to No. 6 Michigan. He capped the season in the Capital One Bowl with a 17-14 win over Arkansas.

Six years later -- with a 68-24 overall record, 37-19 in the Big Ten and on the way to his third consecutive Rose Bowl -- he stunned the nation by taking the job at Arkansas, a program that was in shambles.

One year of John L. Smith was like five years of wreckage for the Razorbacks.

Bielema's legacy should not include his first year. Going 3-9 and 0-8 in SEC play should have been expected. His second year the Hogs jumped to 7-6 and 2-6, starting a streak of three consecutive bowl games. In his third season, the Razorbacks appeared to be peaking when Bielema became the first UA coach to win consecutive bowl games.

The 8-5, 5-3 season was followed last year by a 7-6, 3-5 and something began to unwind. The Hogs blew halftime leads against Missouri and Virginia Tech in the Belk Bowl, and they haven't gained their footing since.

They were lucky to beat Ole Miss and Coastal Carolina. They got beat soundly by LSU and played Mississippi State evenly until finding a way to lose, and here the Hogs are with no shot at a bowl game and the future not looking good.

Friday's season finale with Missouri has almost no interest among the fans, and only about 35,000 showed up for Saturday's game.

But Bielema has remained positive. He hasn't done that for himself or his staff, he's done it for his players.

Bielema is the 10th Razorbacks coach yours truly has covered, and not one has cared more about his players off the field as much as on field than Bielema. A few have been on the same level.

Bielema always has been respectful of the history of the UA and all of its traditions, and with the end of his time here staring him in the face he hasn't wavered. He's stayed true to the school and his core values.


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Sports on 11/22/2017

Print Headline: Bielema a pillar as Arkansas stint crumbles

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  • SusanVL
    November 22, 2017 at 6:01 a.m.

    How about one more chance.... one more year?

  • JakePace
    November 22, 2017 at 6:39 a.m.

    How "out side the box" would it be to consider Bielema for the AD job?
    He is clearly a man of integrity, should know the "in's and outs" of the athletic dept.
    He might not be interested in the position but I would love to see him remain a
    Razorback and some of the names you mentioned in your column yesterday lack his
    credentials and experience.
    I love the guy and if he is given another year I won't be unhappy either - BEAT MISSOURI!!

  • Ragmop
    November 22, 2017 at 7:01 a.m.

    Sometimes it is good to think outside the box. I like how JakePace thinks.

  • Roughneck
    November 22, 2017 at 7:47 a.m.

    Isn’t that the old “peter principle” where someone performing poorly gets promoted instead of terminated? Good man, bad fit, wish him well in his future endeavors and move on.

  • ozena
    November 22, 2017 at 8:18 a.m.

    Frank Broyes was kicked upstairs and got a statue that hasn't been demolished.

  • Bles103
    November 22, 2017 at 8:22 a.m.

    Seriously. Can you kiss his butt a little bit more? How is the new coach supposed to feel coming in and the ex coach is the A.D.? Not another broyles.
    He’s never adjusted his play calling and wasted the talent he had, he brought his Wisconsin playbook and never changed. What worked in the big ten doesn’t work in the sec. He got to where he was coaching to not lose the game, that’s why when the team was down they could not comeback. If Allen was the QB, they would not have came back those two games this year. Hammond should be starting at RB!! Misuse of talent + playcalling = losing records....

  • jjordan
    November 22, 2017 at 8:39 a.m.

    It's good to see some comments that are constructive and not insulting or personal attacks. I met Bielema in Austin TX and he as genuine as they come. If we had just finished last year's season and not lost the way we did, we'd be coming off a 9-win season and maybe this would have been considered a setback/rebuilding year with so much youth gaining experience. But those final two games last year swung things badly. We never really recovered and it's turned into a tailspin. I'm sure change is coming and I can't really disagree, but I do wish him and his family well.

  • WarHog38
    November 22, 2017 at 10:27 a.m.

    I don't think he fit in at all. One of the first things out of his mouth after arriving was negativity about Little Rock games. Bielema came in here attempting to play B1G power football using poor recruiting & poor player development. He kicked highly talented players out of the program that broke his strict rules on class attendance while Saban keeps players caught toting stolen guns. He was either stupid or just did not care. I think the latter, his time down here was mainly about money. Stuck with core values? Bad mouthing hurry up offenses on the national stage and then using the hurry up against Mississippi State. Bielema is getting ready to fight the UA in court for Jeff's $15 million buyout. It simply behooves him on the legal front to keep things nice & tidy going out the door. Long harped big time on eliminating Little Rock games. These two people cared nothing about our traditions. Good Riddance to them both. Wally is dreaming.

  • drs01
    November 22, 2017 at 11:04 a.m.

    Being a nice guy does not earn you the right to collect $4 million a year and coach a losing football program. The BB formula failed. He pissed off the HS coaches in the only state we had some success recruiting. But most coaches there ran the jitterbug offenses and were not into pro/B1G football. He didn't have an effective recruiter in ARKANSAS on his staff. He failed to develop enough talent in the offensive line to avoid injury set backs. He never had enough speed to compete against even the lower tier SEC schools.
    The tasks of finding an AD and a coach will be difficult. The current administration is not capable of doing that. Someone needs to step forward and take control. Steinmetz is out of his element.
    The latte hog fans in NW Arkansas will stay home; and the rest of the state won't spend two nights on the road, pay big $$$$ to sit in bad weather watching losing football.

  • DEE672
    November 22, 2017 at 1:25 p.m.

    I am with Bles 103 and the other negative comments here. Enough of this "not a great coach but such a GOOD man and loves his family" blather. I don't see even a good man because I recall him boasting about picking up women in bars by claiming he was a professor at Wisconsin rather than a mere football coach. As a female emeritus professor I am offended that he lied to pick up females, showing disrespect for women like all these predators now being outed. They don't even realize how belittling they are to women.