Grantland Profiles Bret Bielema And Arkansas' 2012 Coaching Search

Wesley Hitt

Jordan Conn came to Fayetteville during spring practice back in April, and wrote a fantastic profile of the new Razorback head coach for Grantland, including a detailed look at the hiring process from last fall.

Conn was granted access to interviews with apparently just about everybody in the athletic department, from Bielema to Jeff Long to many more, and he created an excellent profile of how exactly Bielema came to Arkansas as well as a snapshot of one of his spring practices.

Here's a link to the entire thing. It's extensive, but the details are excellent. It presents Bielema in a way that feels more true to who he actually is instead of being clouded in coachspeak and pre-approved university messaging. It also provides valuable insight into how Jeff Long went through the coaching search last year.

Here's an excerpt from the coaching search I found interesting:

During the coaching search, when Long called friends in the Big Ten, he tried to disguise his intentions for Bielema. "I would ask, 'Who are the coaches in your conference I should be looking at?'" he says. "I'm asking who's a good coach, but also who is not being appreciated by his administration, who doesn't think he's in the best position, who might be interested in leaving. I would ask a number of questions about every coach they mentioned. So nobody could leave that conversation and think, He's targeting Bret Bielema."

Long heard that Bielema had grown frustrated with the constant turnover in his coaching staff at Wisconsin. One day in November, Bielema talked to one of his departed assistants, Dave Doeren, then the coach at Northern Illinois. The Huskies were in the middle of a 12-2 season, on their way to the Orange Bowl, and Bielema asked Doeren about his own chances of moving to a bigger conference after the season. The way Bielema tells it, Doeren mentioned Arkansas as one of the most desirable potential openings.

And this tidbit from practice was amusing. You can envision this being the type of thing players got away with during the John L. Smith days.

He sees a wide receiver running routes with his mouthpiece dangling. "You see that?" he tells me on the sideline. "You just can't do that. That's not how you're going to run a route in a game." The player is only 15 yards away, but Bielema decides not to say anything. That would slow down practice, and Bielema wants to keep the tempo up. Instead he'll tell the position coach, Michael Smith, to address it in a meeting.

And this from spring practice. (From a section chronicling Bielema's use of profanity at times.)

On Tuesday: "Man, fucking Tuesday was awesome." Since Bielema arrived in Fayetteville, he's had a lot of days like Tuesday.

We hope so. It'd be nice to see a lot of plays this fall that make us wonder "I bet that's what fucking Tuesday was like."

Also, if you read the entire article, you might see a quote from me in it. It was a lot of fun to help out with this piece in the little way I did. Tons of credit to Conn for the fantastic work.

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