Wednesday, December 5, 2012

State of Bielema Address

Yes, I know it's been a couple weeks since the last football post. Everyone goes through attrition at some point, even us. However, this isn't about the recent changes here or myself. No, this is about the sudden upheaval that is head coaching in the Big Ten. Specifically I'm talking about the recent decision by Wisconsin's Bret Bielema to jump ship to Arkansas (Purdue had fired Danny Hope and hired former Tressel assistant Darrell Hazell but that's pittance compared to this). Keep in mind that when it comes to Bielema, he was hand picked by Barry Alvarez. He's amassed a record of 68-24 in 7 years, with going to the Rose Bowl 3 straight years. He's gone to a bowl every single year at Wisconsin, and in doing so he's maintained a good program which is difficult in any sport, much less where the team might lose 15-20 players a year. Everyone has their thoughts as to why he has chosen this new avenue---and so here are mine:

1. Money. It's no secret what college football coaches are paid. Even Nebraska has said they're going to do some trimming around their athletic program in order to be able to pay their coaches. Nick Saban is currently being paid $5.5 million to coach Alabama. Mack Brown, Urban Meyer, Kirk Ferentz all earn millions. In fact, 15 of the FBS coaches earn over $3 million a year, and that includes Brady Hoke. Also, I'm not sure what Arkansas paid Bobby Petrino not to coach, but John L. Smith was only paid $850,000 for his only season as head coach. In going to Arkansas, not only will the Razorbacks pay the $1 million buyout he had with Wisconsin, but now Bielema will receive $3.2 million annually for 6 years, and Bielema's agreement calls for paying Arkansas $3 million if he leaves during his first year, with the buyout lowering by $500,000 each year afterward. Arkansas is required to pay him $12.8 million if it fires Bielema in the first three years of the deal. That drops to $9.6 million in the fourth year, $6.4 million in the fifth and $3.2 in the final year - providing the 42-year-old with what appears to be plenty of job security. Bielema's agreement includes a bonus of $100,000 for winning the SEC championship game, $150,000 for appearing in a BCS bowl game and $100,000 appearing in either the Capital One or Cotton Bowls. He'd receive $300,000 for appearing in the national championship game and another $350,000 were the Razorbacks to win their first national title since 1964. All told, if he does indeed turn that program around...that's a huge chunk of change (on a side note, both Bielema and Kirk Ferentz have the same agent, and Ferentz is the one with the $15 million dollar buyout in his contract. Odd world.)

2. Was he tired of Alvarez's shadow? Bielema was chosen by Alvarez himself after he retired and Bielema was already in the position as Wisconsin's athletic director. Over the years, Barry had nearly become an iconic figure at the university, and before he arrived Wisconsin wasn't a winning team by any stretch of the imagination. I know Bielema has accomplished a lot in his 7 years, even a winning season record that even Alvarez never obtained. However, in coaching it is paramount that a protege would want to step out of his master's shadow. Also keep in mind that in a sport where a coach can get fired 2 years after winning the national championship, anything can happen. I don't think he wanted to surpass Alvarez per say, but I wouldn't doubt if he was a little bored.

3. Better resources. It's also no secret that Bielema held tremendous disdain for Urban Meyer and his recruiting practices, even going so far as to call Meyer's practices illegal. “I can tell you this,” says Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema. “We at the Big Ten don’t want to be like the SEC—in any way, shape or form.” That's what Bielema said almost a year ago shortly after Meyer was hired, and basically stole 4* OL Kyle Dodson away from the Badgers. Now what is he going to do? The SEC can be downright ruthless in recruiting, and a lot more cutthroat than the Big10 is. Granted, down south there is a lot more varied talent, and I admit that. It's easier when football can be played year round. However, I think Wisconsin had built itself into a perennial Big Ten contender under Alvarez, and continued with Bielema. I think he'll also find recruiting against Alabama, LSU, Florida, Georgia, and the rest of the SEC more difficult than he originally thought.

4. What now of Wisconsin? Well, bottom line is they have to select the right coach (I've heard rumors of Paul Chryst out of Pitt) and beef up their recruiting efforts. I'm not sure if Bielema will be allowed to coach Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl and I know he's said that he wants to. They haven't been able to recruit a star quarterback in recent years, but Joel Stave seemed like the right guy until he went down with an injury. Also, and I can't help looking at it this way--Bielema has all but handed over the Leaders Division to Meyer and Ohio State. Frankly, there is no other team that will be able to keep pace with him on that side of the Big Ten, and in a couple season with Maryland and Rutgers joining the Leaders Division, it'll be giving candy to a baby. Penn State is still going to be sanctioned regardless if Bill O'Brien is still there. Purdue might never regain a solid footing even with the new hiring of Hazell. What's left? Illinois will be going to the Legends side in a couple seasons, and that'll leave Indiana, Maryland, Rutgers, Purdue, Penn State, and now Wisconsin all as fodder for Ohio State. So when national analysts make fun of the Big Ten then, now we've given them another reason to do so.

No comments:

Post a Comment