Andy Hodges

Bielema firing handled only way it could have been

Arkansas coach Bret Bielema was fired after the Missouri loss, but the guess here is it was decided long before.


FAYETTEVILLE — Bret Bielema was going to be fired at the end of the Missouri game.

What we had heard after the infamous Board of Trustees meeting a couple of weeks ago was Chancellor Joe Steinmetz was instructed to let athletics director Jeff Long go and Bielema was to be fired in a time period after the LSU game and the end of the Missouri game.

Well, interim athletics director Julie Cromer Peoples handled that last part with a press release handed to media members awaiting Bielema at the end of Missouri’s 48-45 win Saturday night.

Clearly the decision had been made long before Tucker McCann’s 19-yard field goal with five seconds left secured the win for the Tigers.

In reality, the decision wasn’t that hard if Arkansas cared anything at all about being winners.

Bielema, hired in December 2012 amid much fanfare, hadn’t done much in his five seasons, finished 11-29 in the SEC and a 29-33 overall record.

Like I said, it wasn’t that hard of a decision if the Razorbacks wanted to be able to say winning mattered with anything resembling a straight face.

Immediately after the game there was some grumbling among media members about letting him go that quickly.

Bielema’s official termination letter is here.

“I was informed coming off the field that I’ll no longer be the coach at Arkansas,” Bielema said later.

Well, that wasn’t exactly right.

He clarified it later when asked. Bielema gets a little slack here because, in a profession where you are hired to be fired, he had never been terminated before or even been on a staff where the head coach was fired.

“I have a little office over here,” he said when asked about it later. “So it was private. I’ve never been let go before.”

He remained as mystified by the entire process as most things he’s encountered in the last year or so. That’s understandable, too.

Bielema did a lot of positive things in his time at Arkansas. Unfortunately, though, most of it wasn’t winning games.

“Because I didn’t win games, I can brag about my GPA,” he said later.

Many fans criticized the manner he was fired. While it certainly appeared to outsiders they were waiting on him to walk off the field to swing the axe, the guess here everybody — and that includes Bielema — knew how this was going down.

In his rambling sort of way, Bielema pretty much admitted he was on board with the way this went down with my thoughts in parenthes, trying to explain it. The media has had to more or less do this with every press conference for nearly six years.

“Glad I had the chance (to tell his players himself),” he said later. “I did like (being able to do it in person), obviously, everybody’s probably like, oh, they got him right after that.

“But I’d much rather have it this way than think about it. I was going on the road recruiting tomorrow, so that kind of sums that up (no need to pack).

“I got a chance to say goodbye to at least 80 of those players in that locker room. A lot of emotion running through there, and I think that’s a great indication of the trademark or imprint you’ve had on their lives.”

As Cromer Peoples said in the press conference later (which was set up a couple of hours before the kickoff of the Missouri game, we were told later), she wanted Bielema to be able to tell his players personally so they wouldn’t hear about it on social media or television.

While you may not like how it was handled, it really couldn’t have been handled any other way.

In the end, Bielema didn’t have a problem with the way it went down, which is the strongest indicator that everybody involved knew how it was coming.

Which is why the fans shouldn’t be worried about it, either.

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