Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema
When Lane Kiffin was head coach of the Tennessee Volunteers in 2009, SEC commissioner Mike Slive was forced to tell the football coaches of his conference to stop publicly sparring with each other. While the talk was directed at the entire group of coaches, Kiffin was the primary target.
After all, Slive seemed pretty relieved when Derek Dooley replaced Kiffin on Rocky Top.
“A head-coaching change took place at Tennessee when Derek Dooley’s predecessor left to return to his western roots,” Slive said at 2010 SEC Media Days. “I want to welcome coach Dooley back to the SEC. And when I say welcome, I mean 'welcome'.”
Slive may have to have another sit down with the coaches.
Speaking to a crowd at the Saline County Razorback Club's annual fish fry last week, Bielema put Alabama head coach Nick Saban in the crosshairs.
The reason the SEC is talked about all the time is one team, because of their dominance. But I didn't come here to play Alabama. I came here to beat Alabama. You can take [Nick] Saban's record when he was at Michigan State and when he was a coach in the Big Ten and put it against mine, and he can't compare.
Bielema attempted to calm the masses who were angered by the quote on Twitter (while also taking a jab at former Razorback head coach Bobby Petrino on the one-year anniversary of his motorcycle accident).
Things to chill out about today:1- I'm only driving my car today2- Alabama quotes were a joke to a question from a fan at pep rally. #wow— Bret Bielema (@BretBielema) April 1, 2013
Pep rally or not, in this day and age of instant media, those quotes are going to get out and are a comparison to the top coach in the SEC.
On the surface, Bielema's right. He posted a 68-24 record at Wisconsin from 2006-12 and won three Big Ten championships, while Saban was a mere 34-24-1 as head coach of Michigan State from 1995-99.
However, that would be ignoring where Saban made a name for himself. You know, the four combined BCS National Championships, 111-29 record between LSU and Alabama and the construction of a modern-day dynasty in the BCS era in the nation's toughest football conference?
I admire Bielema's confidence. Confidence is an important factor in any line of work, particularly in the head coaching business. Maybe he should hold off on the bravado until he gets a taste of what life's like in the SEC on a week-in, week-out basis, though.
Plus, it's not like Alabama is the Lone Ranger in the SEC. Florida, LSU and Auburn have all won BCS National Championships during the run of seven straight titles. Even Alabama has had to fight tooth and nail to just put itself in position to win college football's ultimate prize.
Was Bret Bielema out-of-line by calling out Alabama and Nick Saban?
The Crimson Tide has been dominant, no doubt, but needed a ton of chips to fall into their favor to play for the BCS National Championship Game in 2011 without winning the SEC West. They got plenty of luck last season from outside of the SEC—including late-season losses by Kansas State and Oregon, and undefeated Ohio State being ineligible for a bowl game.
Alabama is the latest and most prominent team to prove the SEC's dominance on the game's biggest stage, but let's not pretend that they're just cruising through the SEC for the better part of the decade, because they're not.
Is Bielema Arkansas' version of Kiffin?
That's a ridiculously high bar that likely isn't attainable by many.
However, calling out college football's top head coach prior to ever coaching a game in the SEC is certainly Kiffin-esque.