GPA a tasty topping; winning matters most

Posted: October 24, 2017 at 4:30 a.m.

Arkansas athletics director Jeff Long is shown on the sideline during the Razorbacks' 52-20 loss to Auburn on Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017, in Fayetteville.

Watching the Bret Bielema show Sunday night, which was taped shortly after the Razorbacks' 52-20 loss to Auburn, it was obvious Bielema wasn't happy.

That pretty much makes it unanimous.

Many of the fans left in the third quarter when it was way too obvious Auburn was clearly the better team.

Which was about the time yours truly started receiving texts and emails that in plan language said the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville football program is broken.

Understand in all likelihood the Razorbacks will beat Ole Miss, which lost its starting quarterback, a huge part of the Rebels' offense, last week.

But it's not like a victory against a team torn by turmoil -- Ole Miss is facing an NCAA investigation and its coach got fired on a morals clause -- is going to change people's minds that what worked in Wisconsin is not working in Arkansas.

Bielema, in his fifth season, is well aware of that. A losing record -- Bielema is 27-31 overall and 10-26 in SEC play -- is the No. 1 reason coaches get fired.

Most agree Bielema's a great guy, that he'd be atop any invite list for a barbecue, that he's a great son, husband, father and pal. That he's more spiritual than most realized when he was hired to fix the mess John L. Smith left after one season as an interim coach.

This is not calling for his job, yet.

But Bielema has to know he's in trouble with or without the support of the man who hired him, Athletic Director Jeff Long, who also hired Smith, which is causing a lot of discussion on talk radio and message boards.

The Razorbacks are winless in their past seven games against Power 5 opponents.

Second-half disasters have led many to believe that halftimes are being used for bathroom and water breaks, not making adjustments.

Two seasons ago it looked like the Razorbacks had turned the corner when they won six of their last seven, two in overtime and shutouts against Ole Miss and LSU.

Those were heady times, and the Hogs rolled through Kansas State 45-23 in the Liberty Bowl.

Since then there have been no Denver Kirklands or Sebastian Tretolas to play alongside Frank Ragnow, who was clearly this team's best football player but is now out for the season with a lower leg injury.

If healthy, he's the only one who is going to be drafted by an NFL team.

It is never a good thing when your center is clearly the team's best player. He touches the ball more than anyone but never in the end zone.

Most likely Bielema now realizes he hurt his recruiting in Texas during the summer of 2015 -- after Arkansas steamrolled Texas Tech 49-28 in Lubbock in 2014 -- when he spoke to the Texas High School Coaches Convention and told them if they did this or that he'd beat their butts. Turns out most of them were already doing this and that.

He's now recruiting speed because smash-mouth football was invented and perfected in the SEC and every head coach and coordinator has plays in a desk to stop that.

In the country's most conventional league, a coach has to be unconventional to have a chance against Alabama every year, and LSU and Auburn most years.

Bielema was very entertaining, as always, when he spoke to the Little Rock Touchdown Club in late August. But he also spoke of graduation rates, and for those who have been around, that was a bit of red flag with the season on the horizon.

Long did the same thing a few weeks later at the LRTDC, after a dispiriting home loss to TCU, and said Arkansas would never be a win-at-any-cost program. The red flag rose higher.

Now the Hogs are 0-4 in the SEC and 2-5 overall, and as proud as the Razorbacks Nation may be of the team GPA, they apparently are wondering if they are getting enough bang for their bucks.

Sports on 10/24/2017