The SEC has two things in spades besides national championships: cash and criticism.
As a conference, it is the most football-obsessed collection of schools in the country with fanbases that border on psychotic. In order to stave off unhappy hordes, schools like the University of Arkansas amass war chests that would make any Wall Street baron blush.
But that financial prowess was not fully brought to bear when dealing with ex-Wisconsin Badgers head coach Bret Bielema like most people believed. Critics and supporters of the former Illinois pig farmer were bracing for a Les Miles or Nick Saban-like payday.
Instead, Bielema cashes in on a raise that does not even get him into Kirk Ferentz's tax bracket.
Bielema is set to get $610,000 more a year in a relatively modest bump from his Wisconsin salary of $2.59 million to Arkansas' $3.2 million. If he wins a national championship, though, he gets a $350,000 bonus and $100,000 more for winning an SEC championship. Arkansas is in a 20-year drought for the latter, but it has come close, winning the SEC West twice in the last 10 years.
If Bielema's move was in fact a blatant cash grab, he needs to reevaluate his grasp. The same school had reportedly offered Les Miles a five-year contract valued at more than $27.5 million. If that figure is to be believed, that would mean that Miles would have made over $2.3 million more per year than Bielema was offered. It would take the new Hogs coach more than three years to make up that pay difference.
In a move that was motivated by money, it seems that Bielema has a low threshold for enticement. Many people, including myself, could absolutely empathize with this move if the offer was twice his current salary or if Alabama came knocking. In this case, the money falls shorts, as does the opportunity.
As for criticism, Bielema's sensitivity to critiques was apparently a catalyst in his decision. That does not bode well in an area where sports radio is religion, and school legends don't wait in the wings to protect you.
Bielema's decision just does not add up. He made a lateral move for a rather insignificant amount of money in the realm of big-time college football.
If anyone is looking for the loyalty of their head coach, start at $610,000.
That seems to be the going rate.