Nice guy Bielema can't hide from SEC mark

Posted: November 7, 2017 at 4:30 a.m.

Arkansas coach Bret Bielema heads to the locker room after defeating Coastal Carolina in an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 4, 2017, in Fayetteville, Ark. (AP Photo/Michael Woods)

After Bret Bielema's second season as the head coach of the Wisconsin Badgers, he was 21-5 overall and 12-4 in Big Ten play.

In his fifth season at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, he is 29-31 overall and 11-26 in SEC play. That last number is haunting fans and why so many are predicting this will be Bielema's last season at Arkansas.

It isn't personal. He's a great guy. He's fun, witty and a family man. He's got a ton of personality.

It is the record, specifically the conference one, that has Bielema on a hot seat.

The truth is, that record would have any coach at any school in any conference in hot water after five years.

To get to .500 in SEC play, Bielema would need to win out this season, win all eight conference games in 2018 and the first four league games in 2019.

The numbers are going to start showing up in a lack of ticket sales just as it has in real attendance.

The athletic department can announce an attendance of 61,476 on Saturday, but everyone there -- and those who watched on TV -- knows it was probably closer to 45,000 on homecoming.

Some of that was because Coastal Carolina carries about as much interest in Arkansas as a game of tiddlywinks, which was how challenging the game was supposed to be Saturday.

This comes at a time when Reynolds Razorback Stadium is being expanded by 3,500 seats, and yes those are all reserved for the wealthy -- which is a different bone of contention with the fans and has nothing to do with Bielema.

It is all about his record and entertainment value, and folks aren't happy with either right now.

That's why the board of trustees meeting Wednesday and Thursday is getting discussed all across the state.

However, this is just a regularly scheduled meeting. Although the trustees will have an executive session on the agenda for Thursday to discuss personnel, no one knows who the personnel are at this time.

In fact, the BOT -- as it is commonly called -- may not be concerned about the athletic department and its unprecedented growth in administrators.

Most likely, the trustees will stick with the status quo that they don't get involved in day-to-day operations, and that it is up to system President Donald Bobbitt and the various chancellors -- such as Joe Steinmetz at the UA -- to do their jobs.

As for football, it seems that if the UA is going to go a different direction it won't happen until after the season. That's the noble thing to do, but with as many as 15 jobs in the Power 5 likely to come open it could put the program in a race with schools such as Florida, Texas A&M and perhaps even Auburn for a successor.

If there is going to be one.

It is hard not to pull for Bielema, and it is becoming obvious he is feeling the pressure. When he was asked about being caught on camera with what appeared to be a glazed look on his face, he snapped at the reporter: "That's your interpretation."

That's not like Bielema, but going back to last November, it has been a tough year for the head coach. The Razorbacks finished last season by blowing big leads to Missouri and Virginia Tech in the Belk Bowl.

They continued losing to Power 5 schools until they beat Ole Miss 38-37 on Oct. 28, but that lost some luster when the Hogs had to have an 88-yard touchdown run and 76-yard touchdown drive in the fourth quarter to survive Coastal Carolina.

Bottom line: Bret Bielema knows why he's paid $4.1 million a year.

Sports on 11/07/2017