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To Bert, or Not to Bert?

To Bert, or Not to Bert

Will he be around next year? That is the question running through a lot of minds right now. Your first instinct is to say no, of course not. He is under .500 and will likely be close to dead last in the SEC this year. The money on the other hand, wants to tell a different story. Bret's buyout is something north of $15 million. Which is a huge chunk of change. Or is it? The gross revenue for the athletic department exceeded $124 million dollars in 2016. Including the highest amount of contributions in recent history (about $25 million). If you consider some of the boosters who may be upset at our football programs shortcomings, it's easy to see how the funds could magically appear if the money up top believes it is what must be done. Contracts have complexities though. The buyout before January 1, 2018 may be over $15 million, but the amount owed after New Year's Day bowl games would be significantly less. Nearly $4 million less. The pill is a little easier to swallow at that point; As easy as $11 million dollars can be to swallow. There's a further nuance to the situation. There are other programs that may or may not be looking for a coach to start the 2018 season. Programs that are considered by many to be superior jobs to that of Arkansas's.

Tennessee has about had it with Butch Jones and his champions of life shtick. UT fans typically have pipe dreams when it comes to coaches. Fans of that program long for a splashy name like Jon Gruden or Chip Kelly. I even heard Jeff Fisher mentioned around the table at one point. Although they may not get one of these "big name" coaches, there is little doubt that Tennessee is a more traditional power with a wider recruiting base than that of Arkansas's. One could argue that the facilities and living conditions aren't as nice, but that is all subject to opinion. There was one other coach mentioned that may make Arkansas fans cringe a little. Bobby Petrino. With the AD at Louisville recently being removed from the picture, it allows a loophole in Bob's contract that will allow him to essentially "opt out" of coaching. His relationship with Tom Jurich was apparently one of trust. Petrino will likely be shunned and automatically be under criticism with the hire of a new athletic director. One can imagine the last thing Petrino would want to do is be anywhere near Arkansas again, but with Tennessee being in the East, meetings would be a rare instance. An even more rare occasion would be returning to Fayetteville to coach against his former employer and fan base. Tennessee and/or Louisville won't be the only programs that may be looking for a new coach though.

Ole Miss is a dumpster fire program right now. The program may or may not keep interim coach Matt Luke on after this season considering the allegations the program is facing. There is some question as to what kind of coach would take that job with the looming penalties overhead. Matt Luke is an "Ole Miss guy", and would likely be a good fit in the near future until the program overcomes some of these mishaps.

LSU is another institution that may be looking for a head coach after just one year of head coach Ed Orgeron. LSU's home loss to Troy is arguably one of the worst losses in its programs history. The buyout initially seems too excessive to axe him after just one season, but if that loss is a sign of things to come, don't be surprised if the boosters don't help to make a move ASAP. The program is already on a downward trend, and the last thing it needs is two more losing seasons under its belt.

With all the openings that may be coming open (I have only just mentioned the SEC jobs), the question still remains. Do we let Bret go? Who is out there that is better than what we have, and would likely be available for hire over the rest of the competitions? Allow me to give a few "way too early" names for the fanbase to pay attention to. After all, what else are you going to do on Alabama game week?

Dowell Loggains (Offensive Coordinator, Chicago Bears)

Why he is a good fit:

Loggains is an Arkansas guy. I know, that seems cliché. However, I think that an Arkansas guy is exactly what the program needs right now considering that the Bret Bielema experiment has gone very badly. Loggains has a long history of NFL experience under his belt, despite only being 37 years old. His age may help him on the recruiting trail as well to attract kids that he may still have some common ground with.

Why he is a bad fit:

Loggains has had a hit and miss NFL career. His offenses haven't exactly lit up the scoreboards over the years. He is in just his second year as OC of Chicago. His experience as OC was also part of a miserable Tennessee Titans team under head coach Mike Munchak. These two stops don't exactly inspire confidence in the Arkansas native. Loggains also has precisely zero recruiting experience on his resume. Furthering the concerns behind the hire.

Charlie Strong (Head Coach, University of South Florida)

Why he is a good fit:

Again, another Arkansas guy. It may be beating a dead horse, but the fan base wants someone who they feel understands them and is a home-grown product. He was even quoted as growing up an Arkansas fan after accepting the Texas job. Everyone thinks of the Texas job Strong did, and they immediately cross him off their list. Context is everything though. Strong may have misplayed his hand at Texas, but he was constantly "hog tied" by big boosters and the powers at large. He was also forced to try and be something he wasn't and change his offensive style of play after just a few years in. The fact is, Strong is a good coach. He is proving that at USF where the program is currently 5-0 at the time this is being written, and ranked in the Top 25 in his inaugural season there. Additionally, he is known as an excellent recruiter and has ties in both south Florida and now Texas. Areas where Arkansas could really use help if they want to compete in the West.

Why he is a bad fit:

His record at Texas is startling (16-21). If he is the coach that may think he is, how could he possibly fail at a place like Texas with its tradition, recruiting base, and seemingly endless funding. Even if he was being held back a little by the front office, so to speak, that doesn't excuse the product that he put on the field. There is no excuse for taking a program like Texas and having the record that transpired.

Mike Leach (Head Coach, Washington State University)

Why he is a good fit:

Mike Leach has had some of the most dynamic offenses in football. He is known for his unique offensive style that would take Arkansas fans back to the Petrino days of high power offense. The theory that you "can't out Alabama, Alabama" has been proven true repeatedly. Schools like Arkansas must make up for the recruiting deficiencies in other ways. One of those ways is a unique offensive scheme. A scheme that would likely appeal to recruits in a state like Texas, a place he coached for 9 seasons. Leach has also been in the SEC before. He knows the landscape. He was part of a Kentucky offense that put up multiple NCAA, SEC, and school records in just one season. He has been reported as making around $3 million annually at WSU. He could expect a generous pay increase if he took the opportunity to coach at the U of A.

Why he is a bad fit:

Let's be honest shall we. This is somewhat of a farfetched hire. The chances that Leach would leave WSU to come to Arkansas are slim. He has no real ties to the state or anyone within the athletic department. He has had only one season of SEC experience, and even that was at a school like Kentucky where, let's face it, expectations aren't that high. Additionally, he comes off as quite brash. He has a "Belichick-ian" way about him that may make it seem to some like he doesn't care. This likely wouldn't fare well with fans if he got off to a slow start. Which would be a good assumption, given his offensive style requires skillsets different than the recruits that Arkansas currently has on its roster.

Whether Bielema will be around for 2018 has yet to be seen. Jeff Long will have a difficult decision to make should the wheels come completely off this season. As the program stands right now, the lug nuts are loose and everything seems kind of shaky. Even if Bret manages a 7-5 record, which seems highly unlikely, his record will still stand to be well under .500. So, keep your eyes out on schools like WSU or USF as they play on Saturdays. You never know, those head coaches may be the next ones you see on the Arkansas sideline in 2018.