FAYETTEVILLE — A report from FootballScoop.com that “serious talks” are underway with second-year Arkansas Razorbacks coach Bret Bielema about Nebraska’s head coaching vacancy have surfaced with the recent firing of Bo Pelini. That news, however, seems to conflict with Bielema’s comments Wednesday on a teleconference with Arkansas media.
Bielema, who said he was on the road recruiting when he made the teleconference call regarding the Razorbacks’ bowl game practices that open Sunday, was asked what would happen if he was approached by another team seeking a head coach.
Completing his second year at Arkansas after surprising college football observers upon leaving Wisconsin after seven successful seasons, which included three Big Ten championships, Bielema said, “I can’t tell you how excited I am for next year, and obviously my commitment to Arkansas in the long term.”
That was the closing part of his reply that began regarding his confidential conversations with Arkansas Athletic Director Jeff Long before he ultimately resigned at Wisconsin in December 2012 and came to Fayetteville.
“I took this (Arkansas) opportunity without anybody knowing about it or hearing about it,” Bielema said. “My professional life is one that I’ve always felt needs to stay in my own mind and with my wife. I’m not one of those coaches that gets my name involved or anything like that.
“When I started talking to Arkansas, if I hear my name comes in a way other than my own release, then I’m probably going to be out of this conversation. That’s just how I’ve always operated. But I think the part that’s fun for me right now is the building we’ve done is really just coming apparent; the people that come up to me and talk to me about what we’re doing at Arkansas and building, the support Jeff has given us is second to none.”
Bielema in 2013 inherited a Razorbacks program in rebuilding turmoil — a senior-laden team projected in the Top 10 sunk in 2012 to 4-8, 2-6 in the SEC under interim coach John L. Smith, after a scandal caused coach Bobby Petrino’s firing.
The 2013 Razorbacks struggled 3-9, 0-8, but for 2014 finished bowl eligible at 6-6, and their 2-6 SEC record was conducted entirely against teams in the Top 20 when they played Arkansas, including victories over LSU and Ole Miss, and closely contested losses to Alabama, Mississippi State, Missouri and Texas A&M.