Hell may have no fury like a woman scored, but a bitter, scorned athletic director is awfully close.
In case readers missed Monday’s feature by Hot Springs native Dan Wolken in USA Today on Wisconsin football, Badgers athletic director Barry Alvarez wants the college football world to know that Wisconsin doesn’t miss Bret Bielema and Alvarez insists his words aren’t flavored with sour grapes. This in spite of nearly every Alvarez quote seemingly a broadside at the former Badgers coach who shocked everyone by taking the Arkansas job last December.
There was this gem, supposedly to praise new Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen, who is all of 30-31 as a college coach, to close the USA Today feature:
He’s a legitimate guy. What you see is what you get. He’s not going to go up there and try to be a comedian. You ask him a question, and he’s going to give you an answer. He’s got a good plan for everything, how he’s going to go about things. He’s a good team player.
Bret Bielema, while not necessarily channeling Jerry Seinfeld, or even Lou Holtz, has displayed a keen sense of humor since his sudden arrival in Fayetteville. His 65 stops throughout the state in 2013 — whether addressing Razorback Clubs or serving as the lead-off speaker at a sold-out Little Rock Touchdown Club meeting Wednesday — have been constantly entertaining.
“I’ve used up all of my jokes,” he told the filled-to-capacity Marriott Hotel ballroom.
He brought a few new ones Wednesday.
Arkansas fans like a coach with a sense of humor who can entertain at the dais. They loved Holtz, even if his jokes included telling the rest of the nation that Fayetteville might not be the end of the world but one could see it from there.
They have gravitated quickly to Bielema, which, after last year’s season and John L. Smith’s attempts to make it all one big joke, is understandable.
Bielema was funnier than a lead-in skit of sorts Wednesday that had local Sheriff “Doc” Holliday letting the new coach off for some contrived violation. It may have had something to do with bitter Barry Alvarez supposedly telling the now-ousted Ohio State president Gordon Gee that Bielema “was a thug” and Gee saying that Bielema “was one-step ahead of the sheriff” in getting out of Wisconsin.
Holliday’s pardoning of the coach was part of a 22-minute pre-ramble led by club founder David Bazzel, who was shilling everything from National Football Foundation memberships to admission to the Sports Hall of Fame. Bielema and Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long should have had him hawk tickets to the Sept. 7 Samford game here as well.
“You think I speak fast? Thank god you do or we would’ve already been here an hour,” Bielema deadpanned with a nod to his host, Bazzel.
Yes, we love you, Bret Bielema.
Anthracite uniforms (or charcoal gray, if you will) are out this year, the coach said. The Hogs will be in their traditional look of red helmets and jerseys andwhite pants (with black shoes and socks) for home games. For the road, though, get used to all white — helmet, jerseys and pants. At least the Razorback on the helmet is red and normal-sized this year. The fewer reminders of last season, the better.
Again, we love you Bret Bielema.
“I understand you don’t like gray around here,” he cracked. “It looks good on a Jeep though.” Bielema has a new gray Jeep, instead of the Corvette convertible he had in Madison, Wis. — “I don’t think this is a Corvette convertible town,” he said he told his wife about Fayetteville. He drove several oversized members of the defensive line in the Jeep to a team gathering at a movie theater Tuesday night, in lieu of a two-hour team meeting to talk football.
A bag of popcorn, a slushy and a movie go a long way to building team bonds, he indicated. Ten more days still remain to have everything in place for the season opener with Louisiana-Lafayette.
This coach smiled broadly and seemed as happy as he was the day he was announced as the new head Hog, just days removed from leading Wisconsin to a 70-31 wipeout of Nebraska for the Badgers’ third-straight Big Ten title.
I admired his demeanor in that he managed all this good humor while having just learned more bad news: yet another key Hog would miss the next six to eight weeks of the season. Sophomore receiver D’Arthur Cowan, who was an Alabama target out of Olive Branch, Miss., and had shown up big in August camp, had to have a screw implanted to repair a bone break in his foot. That makes four Razorbacks, and two top receivers, sidelined with major injuries in the past few days.
Meanwhile, as Arkansas loves Bret Bielema, nobody in Wisconsin has told Barry Alvarez they miss their previous coach, the Badgers AD made sure to emphasize to national media this week.
Bielema said he took the Arkansas job because the Wisconsin position was limited, both in the opportunity to win a national championship or to attract strong assistants with good salaries. Arkansas and the SEC offered that.
But his unstated reason for leaving seems more obvious by the day, and by Alvarez’s words as well. Of course, it should have been apparent as soon as Alvarez announced he’d step in as the head coach for the Badgers in last January’s Rose Bowl, while paying himself $100,000 to handle the job. Sounds like the retired-coach-turned-AD’s dream job to us.
Bielema doesn’t have to worry about his current AD meddling in coaching matters.
If he can go 68-24 in seven years at Arkansas, it’s hard to imagine anyone needing to. And yes, if he suddenly took another job after a third straight league title, the fan base would miss him.
But even Bielema knows the truth about the coaching professional: He will be never be more loved by the fans than he is now, as he puts a close to the whirlwind tour of the Natural State. There may be down moments, and times of exhilaration, but the honeymoon is coming to an end and the love will only be earned by the results on the field.