Bret Bielema seemed to solidify the Big Ten’s fall from relevance when he left Wisconsin to take the head coaching job at Arkansas. The announcement came on Dec. 4, shocking the Big Ten and college football world.
Looking at the move, how much can be attributed to Bielema dodging the Big Ten’s drop, and how much can be attributed to Urban Meyer landing in the conference and owning it from day one?
In February Bielema called out Meyer and his new conference by telling reporters “We at the Big Ten don’t want to be like the SEC—in any way, shape or form” when asked about Urban Meyer’s recruiting tactics (h/t Sporting News).
If Bielema had those things to say about Meyer, how will he handle one of the game’s most relentless recruiters in Nick Saban? Better yet, how will he battle on the nastiest recruiting ground in the country?
If things don’t change, he won’t.
This was a great move for Bielema and Arkansas on the surface, but the history of his attitude toward competitive recruiting would make me nervous as an Arkansas fan. The SEC is as nasty as it gets and screaming foul won’t work.
Speaking out against Nick Saban’s recruiting tactics to the media will get him laughed out of the interview room. This is a new day for Arkansas, but it needs to be a new day for Bret Bielema as well.
Can Bielema survive in the SEC?
This guy can coach winning football teams. His overall head coaching record is 68-24, and he has won three consecutive Big Ten titles. He had a 37-19 conference record and never coached a losing season in Madison.
The winning ways will benefit him in his new job, but can he continue to pile up the wins in the ultra-competitive SEC West?
Texas A&M is on an explosive rise, LSU is a part of the standing guard and Alabama is the leader of the pack. Nick Saban is the standing king-of-the-hill, and he is a much tougher tyrannical ruler than Urban Meyer will ever become in the Big Ten.
Bielema saw a clean break from the Big Ten and he took it. He is no longer dealing with Urban Meyer and his sketchy recruiting tactics. Instead, he traded Meyer for 13 other guys willing to ignore the gentleman’s agreements that used to come with recruiting.
Will Bielema adapt?
If he doesn’t, his ship will sink faster than the Titanic. He has to join the ranks of relentless recruiters to turn around the Arkansas program. If Bielema fights the change, his tenure in Fayetteville will be short-lived.