Tuesday, December 04, 2012


Jeff Long apparently didn't enjoy The John L. Smith Experience very much since he spent the past two weeks running around with huge sacks of money, a la the Monopoly guy. And while the entire internet spent that time wanking motion at every Arkansas message board asking when Chris Petersen was gonna be introduced, the entire internet apparently underestimated* the persuasive power of said huge sacks of money.

From Yahoo:
In a stunning coup, Arkansas will hire Wisconsin's Bret Bielema as its next football coach, Yahoo! Sports has learned.

Bielema, who has taken the Badgers to three straight Rose Bowls, was nowhere on the radar amid months of speculation over who Arkansas would hire.

Details of Bielema's contract at Arkansas are not yet known, but the school was said to have a major war chest for this coaching search. Bielema was making $2.5 million at Wisconsin.
Bret Bielema. The Bret Bielema who's taken Wisconsin to three straight Rose Bowls (although this year's doesn't really count since Wisconsin finished third in the Whatever Division). I don't really need to tell you a whole lot more about Bret Bielema; he's Wisconsin, which is to say MANBALL and good-ish defense and 10-3 records. He's also only 42 despite having been a legit head coach for seven years (and a D-coordinator for four years before that), which dang. The only plausible criticism/caveat: Wisconsin has been the same thing since about 1993 (or at least 1998), and taking a good program and keeping it good isn't necessarily indicative of awesomeness.

Still ... I mean ... 68-24 and three Big Ten titles at Wisconsin, which isn't Alabama in terms of recruiting and facilities and whatnot. There's not really any question that Bielema is a very good/borderline-elite coach; the question is why he just left Wisconsin, which I think I mentioned at some point has been to three straight Rose Bowls and been winning 10 games a year, for Arkansas. That's a lateral move, right? Especially considering that the SEC West is basically not winnable with Nick Saban and Les Miles getting ALL OF THE RECRUITS and averaging, like, one conference loss a season.

I've been able to come up with two somewhat-plausible reasons Arkansas might be preferable to Wisconsin. The first: the huge sacks of money. As noted by Yahoo, Bielema was making $2.5 million a year; Arkansas reportedly offered Les Miles something like $5.8 million a year, so if Bielema ends up making even 80 percent of that, he'll have basically doubled his salary (and Wisconsin wasn't likely to go that high to keep him). The second: Urban Meyer. Considering that Ohio State just went 12-0 in what was supposed to be a transition-ish year and is basically just divvying up the Midwest's five-stars with Michigan, it seems unlikely that Wisconsin or Penn State or anybody else in the division is gonna be winning anything significant any time soon, meaning Wisconsin might have plateaued in terms of actual achievement.

I dunno if the latter reason makes much sense given the SEC West thing, but it's worth considering that Bielema had lost both of his coordinators in the last three years; there's a point at which maintaining awesomeness at a place without much reason for awesomeness is just really hard, and there's a point right after that at which you're Kirk Ferentz. FWIW, Bielema reportedly told his players (the Wisconsin ones) that he took the job for unspecified "personal reasons" that may or may not have included the ability to hunt reptiles.

Either way, Arkansas wins (kind of) and Wisconsin loses (kind of). As for Arkansas, whether being LSU Lite will be a viable way to win at an LSU level remains to be seen, especially with Bielema being something other than the world's best salesman. A related quote from Mike Farrell at Rivals:
"He's going to have to recruit the Midwest still, but he will have to hit the South hard. And I'm not sure if he has the personality to do that. ... Does his no-nonsense approach work in the cutthroat SEC? This is a very interesting hire because they are getting a great coach who is known as a solid but not flashy or spectacular recruiter, a guy who won't like to play the games needed to be played in the SEC to win over kids."
Translation: MEATHEAD NO HAVE IPOD LOL. That's probably significant given the talent discrepancy between Alabama/LSU and everybody else. I mean, being one of the three best teams in the Big Ten the last few years hasn't required indescribable coaching awesomeness given Michigan not being Michigan for a few years, Iowa becoming Iowa again and the Illinois/Indiana schools being mostly terrible; being one of the three best programs in the SEC West might (to say nothing of actually winning the SEC as a whole).

Then again, as incomprehensible as being at the Alabama/LSU level seems given the last four months, Arkansas went 11-2 last year and 10-3 the year before and finished in the top 10 both times, and that was after Houston Nutt went 75-48 and won three SEC West titles in 10 years. It's not unreasonable to think it can be done again with a legitimate coach who isn't in any way comparable to John L. Smith; that's why Bielema's gonna be getting paid $5 million a year, I guess (that and having to put up with the Thomas McAfees of the Arkansas world).

As for Wisconsin, timing is a bitch. Dave Doeren was available 48 hours ago; not so much anymore. Paul Chryst would've been the obvious promote-that-guy guy if Bielema had bailed last offseason; as it is, he's just finishing his first year at Pitt, which lol not Pitt insert Todd Graham joke here. Chryst has already gone out of his way to make a relatively vague statement about being "committed," but whether that will mean anything once he gets a carefully handwritten letter from Barry Alvarez (with a lovely sweater attached) remains to be seen. I've also seen/heard references to Seahawks O-coordinator (and former Wisconsin quarterback) Darrell Bevell, who just so happens to be coaching Russell Wilson right now and doing a pretty good job of it. Beyond that, I dunno, although it's worth noting that Alvarez is doing the hiring and presumably will be looking for somebody of the Wisconsin ilk (which is to say not Bobby Petrino or Sonny Dykes or whoever). It might also be worth noting that Alvarez was Notre Dame's defensive coordinator before he was Wisconsin's head coach, and Notre Dame's current defensive coordinator is, like, pretty good.

All of those guys can probably be had since Wisconsin's a good job; it's just not a great job. If it were, the 42-year-old with the .725 winning percentage and three Big Ten titles would still be there (in the general region in which he's spent his entire life) rather than at a second-tier school in a borderline-unwinnable division in a conference he specifically said 10 months ago he wanted no part of.

*Jeff Long's strategy for hiring coaches is massively underrated: Offer enough money and almost nobody is ungettable, employment status be damned. Keep your wife away from Jeff Long.


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