In the last seven years, the University of Arkansas has had arguably the most turbulent stretch of head coaching changes in all pro or college football. Razorback fans will certainly accede to this. The following word associations shall forevermore rub salt into their psychic wounds: Nutt, text gate, Malzahn, Mustain; Petrino, Dorrell, motorcycle, neck brace, red face (not from shame); John L. Smith, awkward, national, laughing, stock.
From a public outrage standpoint, though, none of the above fallouts would match what would happen if Bret Bielema left Fayetteville after this season. The idea that Arkansas’ most recent coach would pursue greener pastures after only two years seems far-fetched. But not far-fetched enough for one long-time Ohio State football writer to spend a full column on.
TheOzone.net’s Tony Gerdeman recently laid out a case for why Michigan should hire Bret Bielema to replace its current embattled coach Brady Hoke. Hoke, in case you haven’t heard, makes Will Muschamp’s tenure at Florida look more secure than a Chuck Norris handshake. This year (Hoke’s fourth) Michigan has lost four of six games including a 31-0 drubbing to Notre Dame – the first time the program’s been shut in 30 years.
Gerdeman argues since Bielema has already found success in the Big Ten (he had a 39-19 conference record as Wisconsin’s coach), he could do even better with a far richer program like Michigan. Other potential candidates have also been successful, but they don’t represent a return to the glory days of the Wolverines patriarch Bo Schembechler like Bielema could.
“He is the perfect fit for a program that wants to play football the way their ancestors played — between the tackles and on the ground. Few coaches have the track record that Bielema has when it comes to playing the type of football that Michigan thought they were getting with Brady Hoke. If they were to land Bielema, then they would finally be on the right track toward establishing the identity that they so badly want to portray.”
Finally, and most importantly, Bielema “is smug, arrogant and he hates Ohio State. If that’s not a Michigan Man, then I don’t know what is,” Gerdeman writes.
No doubt, Bielema hates himself some Buckeye. Any time, any place:
It’s a Sunday night and excited about the week ahead. Was good week of recruiting especially against “THE” University’s of the world. #WPS
— Bret Bielema (@BretBielema) July 29, 2013
At Wisconsin, he beat Ohio State only once in six tries but Hayes Almighty what a loss! The Badgers’ 2010 win ruined Ohio State’s national title shot. Fourth-quarter issues plagued Wisconsin in many of those losses, as they have so far in the Hogs’ two SEC losses against Auburn and Texas A&M. If a fourth quarter meltdown proves the difference in Arkansas’ Saturday showdown against No. 7 Alabama, Bielema will start facing the same kind of local scrutiny he felt from Wisconsin fans and media during his last months in Madison.
Gerdeman then considers whether Bielema would actually want to leave Arkansas even if Michigan showed interest. He starts talking money, and this is where his argument breaks down.
He points out the Wolverines’ assistant Doug Nussmeier makes $200,000 more at Michigan than he did at Alabama, and insinuates the Wolverines have deep enough pockets to lure practically anybody they want to Ann Arbor.
This is Big Ten-centric thinking. Yes, Ohio State and Michigan make much more money off football than most SEC schools, but that doesn’t mean they are investing the same percentage of their “profit” (revenue-expenditures) into football as schools in the middle of the SEC pack like Arkansas. Additionally, the numbers below show that Arkansas is on par – and in some cases superior to – Michigan when it comes to investing in its football program:
|$99,770,840||Athletic Dept Total Revenue*||$143,514,125|
|$92,131,933||Athletic Dept Total Expenditures||$131,018,311|
|$3.2 million avg. per yr / 6 yrs**||Head FB coach contract||$3.25 million avg. per yr / 6 yrs|
|$3.2 million||Head FB coach salary 2014||$2.3 million***|
|$3,205,000 circa Feb. 2014||FB Staff Salary 2014||$3,072,000 circa Dec. 2013|
|Jim Cheney, OC, $550,000Robb Smith, DC, $500,000Sam Pittman, OC, $500,000||Highest Paid FB Assistants||Greg Mattison, DC, $835,000Doug Nussmeier, OC, $830,000|
Yes, Michigan has shown it’s willing to pay its very top assistants more money than most other schools. And yes, with $25.3 million coming into its football program as donations from an enormous alumni base, it would be willing to pay off any buyout clause necessary to get the coach it wants – including Bielema’s $2.5 million price tag.
But those aren’t nearly strong enough reasons for Bielema to uproot after a mere two years getting acclimated to the SEC. His primary reason for coming to Arkansas was to get a shot at the big boys. The burning competitor in Bielema wants to know how he measures up as a head coach against the very best.
If he, his staff and his recruits try their best, and after five or six years they don’t measure up, then he can one day retire knowing he at least didn’t shy away from his sport’s greatest challenge. Gerdeman wrote Michigan’s imminent opening would give Bielema “an opportunity to get the hell out of the SEC, specifically the SEC West. Coaching in the SEC is too hard because every school is always trying to win.”
Sorry, but no.
The fact every SEC school is “always trying to win” is the main draw to coaching there in the first place.
*The most recent data reported as of summer 2014.
** Both coaches’ contracts are loaded with a mind-numbing array of opportunities to earn more.
*** Last year, Hoke banked well over $4 million dollars but that was because of a $1.5 million “stay bonus” paid following the season and a $1.05 million payout for “deferred compensation,” according to mlive.com.