Bielema taking head-on approach early at Arkansas

Question of the Day

What has been the biggest debacle on Obama's watch?

View results

FAYETTEVILLE, ARK. (AP) - Bret Bielema wasted little time in playing to the eager crowd.

The new Arkansas football coach picked up the microphone at halftime of the Razorbacks‘ basketball game against Tennessee, said some kind words about his first few months in Fayetteville and then laid down the gauntlet _ for himself and his coaching staff _ to a state hanging on his every word.

“We came to Arkansas for all the same reason,” Bielema said. “We didn’t come here to play in the (Southeastern Conference); we came here to win the SEC. And that’s what we’re going to do.”

The roar of approval was deafening inside Bud Walton Arena. It was exactly the kind of moment, and bravado, that a program still smarting from a season gone south was craving. So far, it appears the masses couldn’t be happier with a coach who prides himself on directness, one who feels like he has plenty left to prove even after leading the Badgers to three straight Rose Bowl appearances.

For Bielema, his new job represents an opportunity to step out of his comfort zone for the first time in his career. The former Iowa walk-on who cut his coaching teeth under the likes of Hayden Fry, Kirk Ferentz, Bill Snyder and Barry Alvarez finally has a program all his own.

“In my mind, the reason I made the jump was I wanted to prove something more,” Bielema told The Associated Press. “I came here to win an SEC championship.”

Arkansas has yet to win a conference championship since leaving the former Southwest Conference for the SEC in 1992, falling three times (1995, 2002 and `06) in the championship game. The Razorbacks appeared on the cusp of joining the SEC’s elite under former coach Bobby Petrino, finishing No. 5 in the country following the 2011 season, but that was before Petrino’s infamous motorcycle accident with his mistress aboard that led to his downfall.

Enter Bielema, who was hired on Dec. 4 to pick up the pieces of a 4-8 season under interim coach John L. Smith.

What Arkansas has discovered in the first two months under its new leader is a coach seemingly unafraid of just about anything or anyone. That includes the rugged SEC, home of the last seven national championships, and critics of his departure from Wisconsin. Bielema has simultaneously engaged his fans and dismissed his critics on Twitter, one keystroke at a time.

“Enjoy life alone,” Bielema responded to one online heckler.

“Hope your children don’t follow you on Twitter,” he wrote to another.

“Why hate? Life is too short,” was still another tweet.

“If someone says something to me, I’m not going to hold back,” Bielema explains. “That’s just how I am in person. If someone comes up to me one-on-one in an airport or a restaurant and says something to me, I’m not going to … I’m not going to shy away from that.”

Bielema insists that his departure from Wisconsin and the Big Ten was never intended to put either in a negative light.

“But when you brag about the situation you’re in, people become sensitive,” he said.

Story Continues →

View Entire Story

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Comments
blog comments powered by Disqus
Get Adobe Flash player
You Might Also Like
  • Nathan Walker waits to take the ice during the Capitals' development camp at the Kettler Capitals Iceplex in Arlington on Monday, July 9, 2012. (Ryan M.L. Young/The Washington Times)

    Nathan Walker’s NHL dreams send him around the world

  • Washington Nationals' Anthony Rendon, third from left, smiles as he warms up with his teammates who were were wearing t-shirts in support of him for the All Star game before an interleague baseball game against the Baltimore Orioles at Nationals Park, Tuesday, July 8, 2014, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

    Anthony Rendon not an All-Star, but he’s been Nats’ MVP

  • Baltimore Orioles manager Buck Showalter speaks during a media availability in the dugout before an interleague baseball game against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park, Monday, July 7, 2014, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

    LOVERRO: Suck-up Buck Showalter needs history lesson

  • Argentina's Maxi Rodriguez, left, celebrates with goalkeeper Sergio Romero after scoring the decisive goal during the World Cup semifinal soccer match between the Netherlands and Argentina at the Itaquerao Stadium in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Wednesday, July 9, 2014. Argentina beat the Netherlands 4-2 in a penalty shootout to reach the World Cup final. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)

    Argentina beats Dutch in shootout to reach World Cup final

  • Washington Redskins safety Tanard Jackson speaks during a media availability after an NFL football training camp practice at Redskins Park, Friday, Aug. 3, 2012 in Ashburn, Va. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

    Tanard Jackson suspended indefinitely by NFL — again

  • Celebrities In The News
  • Hall of Fame Inductees, KISS, Paul Stanley, Peter Criss, Gene Simmons, and Ace Frehley speak at the 2014 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony on Thursday, April, 10, 2014 in New York. (Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP)

    KISS rocker Gene Simmons touts 1 percent life: ‘It’s fantastic’

  • This image from video released by Funny Or Die shows President Obama, left, with actor-comedian Zach Galifianakis during an appearance on "Between Two Ferns," the digital short with a laser focus on reaching people aged 18 to 34. The president urged young people to sign up for the new health care plan through an appearance posted Tuesday, March 11, 2014, on the comic website Funny or Die, bypassing TV talk show titans like Jimmy Fallon or Jimmy Kimmel for an online audience. (AP Photo/Funny Or Die)

    Obama’s ‘Ferns’ interview gets Emmy nod

  • ** FILE ** In this Nov. 12, 2013, file photo, actor Alec Baldwin leaves court in New York. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)

    Alec Baldwin in talks to play Rob Ford-like mayor in new NBC drama