Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema
If Arkansas fans weren't offended by the quotes coming from Ohio State president E. Gordon Gee about SEC fans not being able to read or write, they're probably offended now.
Gee's quotes in the Associated Press story—which included shots at Notre Dame, Louisville, Kentucky and Catholics—were bad enough, but the full audio of his meeting with Ohio State's athletic council on Dec. 5, 2012 is much, much worse.
Someone was saying to me, well, you know, Bret Bielema leaving…that was a blessing for Wisconsin and they knew it. Because he was under tremendous pressure. They didn’t like him. [Wisconsin athletic director] Barry Alvarez thought he was a thug. And he left just ahead of the sheriff.
Alvarez quickly denied making the statements, according to Matt Hayes of Sporting News:
Alvarez:"I have never said that about Bret, nor had those feelings towards him. I accepted (Gee) apology and consider the matter closed.”— Matt Hayes(@Matt_HayesSN) May 31, 2013
Bielema has made no bones about sparring with Wisconsin fans, continually jabbing them on Twitter. He's outspoken, sometimes to a point of being reckless. But does that make him a thug?
Eccentric? Sure. Rude? Probably at times. Entertaining? Always. A thug? Nope.
Granted, Gee passed the buck by saying that it is Alvarez who thinks Bielema is a "thug." But considering Gee's track record of continually offending people with reckless quotes and Alvarez's denial, do you really believe that it is Alvarez that feels this way?
Besides, it's not his place to tell a crowd—any crowd—what Alvarez's feelings toward Bielema are no matter what they are. Whatever Alvarez' personal feelings towards Bielema are, he's probably pleased that Bielema was able to win three straight Big Ten titles before bolting to Arkansas.
And what sheriff is Gee talking about? That phrase is commonly used when a coach bolts before the NCAA comes calling, like when Pete Carroll left USC. Is there something going on behind the scenes in Madison?
That's not just some passing statement; that's a meaty quote that could carry some serious ramifications. But then again, it's E. Gordon Gee; and if he's proven anything during his time at Ohio State, it's that he's half-cartoon.
Was E. Gordon Gee out of line calling out Bret Bielema?
There is a silver-lining in all of Gee's recorded shenanigans though.
The SEC and Big Ten share three bowl tie-ins: the Capital One Bowl, Outback Bowl and Gator Bowl. It may be asking a lot for Arkansas to play either Ohio State or Wisconsin in a bowl game considering the Razorbacks are rebuilding, the Buckeyes are a national title contender and the Badgers aren't far behind.
But Arkansas versus either Ohio State or Wisconsin has to happen this year.
For everybody's sake.
Gee sent Bielema an email late Friday night apologizing for his comments, which Bielema posted to his Twitter account.
It's a start from Mr. Gee. Will take his apology and phone call soon. #1-0 twitter.com/BretBielema/st…— Bret Bielema (@BretBielema) June 1, 2013