Arkansas lost the lead, lost the game and, before you could say, “Woo pig sooie,” Coach Bret Bielema had lost his job.
As Bielema walked off the field Friday following his team’s season-ending home loss to Missouri — a compelling 48-45 game in which the Razorbacks twice led by 14 points — he learned he won’t be back for a sixth season with the Hogs, he said.
“I was informed coming off the field that I am no longer the coach of Arkansas,” Bielema told reporters. “I’ve never been let go in my entire life, so this is a first for me, but I’ve had quite a few coaches that have moved on always kind of say, whether it’s right, wrong or indifferent, you want to leave the place better than when you got here, and I know that’s happened.”
It was part of a busy Friday and Saturday on the coaching carousel:
- UCLA hired Chip Kelly.
- Nebraska fired Mike Riley.
- Mississippi State does not want Dan Mullen to take a spin on the carousel.
Bielema’s firing was predictable, considering Bielema’s 29-34 record at the school (including 11-29 in Southeastern Conference play) and 4-8 overall mark this season. The promptness of it, though, was … let’s just say Arkansas was eager to get rid of the guy. A news release announcing the firing was handed out to reporters shortly after the game.
“During the course of the past five seasons, we have not been able to sustain the success on the field that is expected and required at the University of Arkansas,” interim athletic director Julie Cromer Peoples said in the release.
Bielema’s contract runs through December 2018.
Fans in Wisconsin must be dripping in schadenfreude. After a successful seven-year tenure as the Badgers’ coach from 2006-12, Bielema left for a coveted (and lucrative) job in the SEC. Under Bielema, Arkansas never truly competed for an SEC title, and the Razorbacks’ apex was an 8-5 season in 2015, followed by a Liberty Bowl win.
Meanwhile, in Wisconsin, the Badgers are a win away from a perfect regular season and probably an additional win away (in the Big Ten championship game) from a College Football Playoff berth.
In the SEC, a handful of schools could be searching for a new coach. Florida fired Jim McElwain at the end of last month, and Tennessee canned Butch Jones two weeks ago — also following a loss to Missouri. Ole Miss went through the season with Matt Luke as its interim coach after Hugh Freeze’s forced resignation, and the Rebels will likely make a big-name hire. If Texas A&M and Kevin Sumlin soon part ways, it would shock nobody.
Even before Bielema’s ouster, Arkansas was rumored to covet Auburn’s Gus Malzahn, a story line that will serve as a subplot to Saturday’s Iron Bowl. Malzahn is a hall of fame high school coach in Arkansas, and he began his college coaching career as an offensive coordinator for the Razorbacks. He was also the head coach at Arkansas State before taking over at Auburn before the 2013 season.
According to AL.com, on the SEC coaches teleconference Wednesday, a reporter asked Malzahn about the rumor of him heading to Arkansas. He did not take the bait.
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