The mercurial 2017 season and Bret Bielema’s five-year run at the top of the Hill are now over. At the outset, let’s declare Friday, Nov. 24, to be a day for Arkansas athletics as a whole to forget: The men’s basketball team got plowed through by the North Carolina Tar Heels and their friendly officials in the PK80 extravaganza out in Portland, and the football team played for, oh, about 19 hours with another Missouri bunch that was largely inept, but had the benefit of a front-loaded schedule to make the Tigers’ eventual six-game winning streak after a 1-5 start look downright magical.
The Hogs were on the way to burying Missouri early with a couple of huge fumble recoveries turned into touchdowns. But from there, you guessed it, Arkansas’s reconceived 3-4
Never fear, though, Arkansas administrators drew unwanted attention for the artless and crass manner in which they gave Bielema his walking papers. Bielema clarified in his press conference that he was advised of the decision off the field in his office; some of the social media banter indicated he knew he was toast two weeks ago. Regardless, on the heels of firing Jeff Long, who was quite effusive of praise for his former employer in the aftermath, it seemed like the manner of dispatching Bielema by press release circulated before the field had cleared was a little on the unprofessional side.
Bielema was predictably emotional, but also as honest and direct as he could be. He acknowledged the lack of wins and the pervasive second-half bugaboo was on him and his staff, said that the spate of injuries to key players this fall was no excuse for the team’s atrocious performance, and duly and appropriately credited his players for continuing to soldier through a season that started to lose its luster the minute TCU steamrolled the Hogs for the first of eight defeats way back in September.
The entire Thanksgiving weekend felt very odd. Long wasn’t around, but an interim athletic director, Julie Cromer Peoples, boldly asserted that she had been vested with the task of hiring Bielema’s successor. Bielema and his staff, or at least presumably most of them, will be packing away their things and searching for gainful employment elsewhere. There’s no bowl game to discuss anymore, so a lot of the talk-radio and message-board fodder circulated around the fever dream that Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn would routinely cast aside a better job with better resources just for the sake of coming back to a state where the quarterback’s trucks get set on fire and where he was mockingly derided as “High School” by the Hogs’ then-defensive coordinator, Vic Tayback or something like that.
Not everyone is
It’s an aggravating time for a Hog fan, which
It was believed (concocted) by many that if Auburn would just lose this little game against Alabama in front of all those psychotic fans at Jordan-Hare on Saturday, the lame-duck AD status of Jay Jacobs and all the pressures of being second to the Tide in that state would naturally coax Malzahn back northwesterly. Trouble is, Malzahn has the hottest team in the country right now, and they steamrolled Bama in a dominant fourth quarter where the Tigers did everything right and the Tide rarely even snapped the ball correctly. Auburn has an eye on a national championship right now, and coaches in that position do not simply snap the briefcase clasps, say farewell, and turn over the reins to a coordinator when there’s hardware at stake.
We’ll know more next week, in theory, but at this point, assume nothing you hear is accurate. The