Head Coach Bret Bielema (on leaving Wisconsin) -"I appreciate the question and I understand that I left a great place. I left a place that gave me my first head coaching job. One of the things that I really believe in as a coach is that if you can leave a place in a better place than where you were, you should feel good. We gave them three straight Big Ten championships. That had never been done before. I would love to say thank you to Coach Alvarez, my AD that gave me a tremendous amount of guidance. It was a very difficult decision. It wasn't something that I just had to think about. I have had some opportunities come my way the last two years that made me think a little bit. I have such a tremendous respect for Wisconsin, but the opportunity to be in the SEC is something that I really wanted to do. Early on in my coaching career I was given the opportunity to become a defensive coordinator. I let that opportunity go by. It was probably the best thing I ever did, but it made me think about coaching in the SEC and I am just glad the opportunity came at Arkansas. There were only two or three schools that I would have thought about doing this for. After I got involved in it there was only one school I would have done it for, and that was Arkansas."
Head Coach Bret Bielema (on if he will coach in the Rose Bowl and if he is nervous about coming to the south) -"I will not coach in the Rose Bowl. When I had my conversation with Coach Alvarez, Jeff (Long) came out there with me with the intent on being pretty aggressive on the timing of it. Coach Alvarez is a very persuasive individual so before I went and saw him I knew what I was doing and had to do. As far as being nervous, the thing that intrigued me as I have watched over the years, the SEC, there are a lot of coaches that have had my type of background that have had success. Not only growing up and being a part of it but coming here from a Big Ten coaching background early in their career. Some of the principles and things that people have done, I am excited to work with the caliber of the athlete that the SEC can bring. What we can bring to the University of Arkansas is very exciting."
Head Coach Bret Bielema (on his thoughts on SEC recruiting) -"I think obviously the comments I made in regards to the SEC a year ago, you have to understand this, a year ago I was the coach at the University of Wisconsin. I was the two-time defending Big Ten Champion. The issues that came about because of that comment really had nothing to do with what was going on. Unfortunately it got spun into that. I wasn't misquoted because I said it but they quotes that weren't really at the root of what the question was. I have a great amount of respect for the SEC. That is why I am standing in front of you today. The part that I think you guys have to appreciate, where you are is what you need to protect and stand up for what you believe in. Nobody will have a stronger support of the SEC than myself. "
Head Coach Bret Bielema (on how talks evolved with Jeff Long) -"Sunday, we got done with a very big game on Saturday night. The Big Ten Championship Game, for whatever reason, decided to be the last championship game in the world of college football. When I was coming in the locker room before the game I was watching the end of the Alabama-Georgia game and seeing that unfold. I clicked it off. I didn't even watch the last two minutes and in retrospect I should have, knowing what I know now. I clicked it off and said, the SEC, they should play the late game and we should be the earlier late game. Low and behold we got done and it was 11:30. I'm not real quick with numbers but we had scored a number of points and Nebraska had scored a certain number of points and I was trying to figure out how many touchdowns they would have to get in the last quarter to win the game. I figured it was above five touchdowns. I was like, 'My defense isn't going to allow that to happen'. I looked at my watch and said, 'Is it 11:30?' My coordinator goes, 'Yeah coach it's 11:35.' I didn't walk into the hotel until about 1:30. I didn't touch my phone that night, I left it alone. Sunday I checked my messages and I had over 60 messages and one of the messages was to reach out to Jon (Fagg) first. I had a conversation with him and agreed to go meet in New York City on Monday. I was already going to New York City for the Hall of Fame. I met with them late Sunday night. I went to the hotel and thought about it, processed it. I met again with Jeff and Jon on Monday morning. I saw Coach Alvarez at about 11:30 or 11:45. It was around 2:30 when we were on the airplane to Madison. It happened very, very quickly. Again, this was something that I processed, not Arkansas itself, but in my mind for a little bit. We had done some great things, went to two straight Rose Bowls and waiting for that Nebraska game for a chance to go to a third. The way we played gave me some satisfaction that they had a pretty good team coming back. They have 27 juniors and I believe 14 draftable players next year. I believe it is going to be another good year. I thought it was time for me to spread my wings and fly a little bit further."
Head Coach Bret Bielema (on planning to interview assistant coaches) -"That is a great question. I have been a part of some of these coaching changes and unfortunately I learned this one first hand. I was a young coach at the University of Iowa. Hayden Fry had to step down. Coach Broyles you know of Hayden Fry. I played for Hayden. He gave me a scholarship when I was a walk on. He came into my office to tell me he was retiring and I started crying like a baby. I didn't know what was going to happen. I got a phone call from my mother and she said 'Do you have a job?' I said 'Not only do I not have a job I don't have a car'. The university gives you a car. I was sitting there saying 'Who are they going to bring in? What are they going to do?' It went on and on, the search, and finally they brought in Kirk Ferentz. He came in and one thing he did was he interviewed every coach but he kept walking by my office. I was getting nervous and it was like 10 o'clock and he said 'Let's meet tomorrow.' And I said 'No, no, no let's take an interview tonight.' It was such an unknowing thing so I made a promise that if I was ever in this situation, I was going to interview every coach on the current staff and decide things on my own before I hired a coach from anywhere else. I have not hired another coach; I have not hired another person to come to the University of Arkansas as of today. I tried to meet with our staff today but there were three or four coaches that were on the road recruiting so they were hoping to get back today. I am going to meet with our staff tomorrow at 9 a.m. and go through a sheet of information that I want to share with all of them together for the first time. I will sit down individually with the ones that want to sit down with me and talk about their job there and anything they want to tell me that can make the job better and whether they want to share it with me or not. Then we will make some decisions or not. I can't tell you whether I am going to bring someone in from Wisconsin. I can't tell you if I am going to bring someone from any other university in the United States. I can tell you this, the staff that I am going to assemble is going to be second to none. It is going to be that way because of the support I have got from the administration."
Head Coach Bret Bielema (on his approach to recruiting and hitting the ground running) -"Absolutely. The part that is very important to me is to understand not only the players that we are bringing in here but the person we are bringing in here. I am a big believer in, obviously there are a lot of young men in the United States that can play great football but they have to fit into the ideas and the beliefs and the system itself. Arkansas academically has a strong reputation. All of those things, we need to understand that we bring a young man in, he is going to play good football year one but he is going to play great football year four. We want to make sure he gets there. We are bringing in a type of kid that is going to buy into this culture. That takes a little bit of film study but that takes a lot of person study. I will be in making phone calls as soon as we get off this stage to every kid that has committed to us. I will review their film in the next 24 hours, to make sure that we want to move forward with every kid that is committed to us. There are a couple that I have already seen already that we want to make sure we are in. I will not be hitting the road until Monday, simply because I want to be able to give great service to the staff this year, to the administration. I want to have a good understanding of what I can bring in here and then go out on the road. As a head coach you can only go once. So if I am coming to visit you, I only have one chance to meet your mom and your dad, your brother, your minister, your preacher, whoever it is I only have one chance to go into your school. Assistants get to go in six times so when I decide to cash my coin I have to make this thing last. I won't want to use that unless I know it's real."
Head Coach Bret Bielema (on assistant coaches) -
coordinator, I have a short list of six people that I'm interested in.
Some I know very, very well. Some okay, through the coaching profession.
It's something that I would
prioritize as the first thing on my agenda when I go to hire a staff,
because it's obviously going to be something new due to the departure of
Paul (Petrino). On my staff is it important to have guys from the SEC? I
think that would be a bonus. Not to say
that it's a mandatory thing. I've learned that. I grew up on a small
farm in Illinois. I grew up in an environment where it was very, very
different from the world of college football that I'm in now. Everywhere
I went, I've been able to recruit because of
the person you are, not because of where I'm from. I understand that
SEC experience would be very nice, and my guess is that several of my
coaches will have that. But it's not a priority. I'm going to recruit
good coaches to bring them here and fall in love
with Arkansas and represent what we need to go out and play the game."
Head Coach Bret Bielema (on paying assistant coaches) - "I remember I was an assistant at the University of Iowa. I was going to leave and be the defense GA at Stillwater at Oklahoma State. Coach Hayden Fry said to me 'You don't want to do that.' I said 'Why not?' and he said 'I'm going to make you my interim linebackers coach. I've got some good news and some bad news. The bad news is that I can only give you a Buick LeSabre.' And I'm driving this thing that can barely go. And I said that was good news to me, what was the good news? And he said 'I can pay you 60,000 dollars.' I thought I was a millionaire. I was making $6,000 as a GA and didn't really comprehend what that meant. As I became more and more successful they kept paying me more and more money. When I came to the University of Wisconsin, Barry Alvarez said if you have success here, you get justly rewarded. When I began to have more and more success at Wisconsin, I stayed, but a lot of my coaches left. I just wasn't able to compensate them in a way that other coaches were. I lost three coaches last year that were making $225,000 to making over $400,000 each. I know I'm hiring the right guys because everybody keeps taking them from me. The NFL, they kind of upset me because they've got silly money, they've got monopoly money. So this year, as soon as we won that game, I had three coaches come to me the day after the game and they had been contacted by other schools, offering them money that I can't bring them at Wisconsin. Wisconsin isn't wired to do that at this point. I felt that for me and my future, and for my wife, and what I wanted to accomplish in the world of college football, I needed to have that ability to do that. And thankfully I've found that here at Arkansas. To be quite honest, I was talking to my wife about it and that was part of the equation. We are very happy with where we're at. We're going to enjoy the value of whatever my contract is here. But you have to coach every day no matter what the price is."
Head Coach Bret Bielema (on if he thinks Wisconsin will try to hire Paul Chryst to replace him)
totally get it. Paul is a great coach. I don't comment on things, and
the more you get to know me, you'll learn that I don't comment on things
that I'm not involved in. Whoever
Coach Alvarez picks is going to be phenomenal. I think he's actually
coaching the bowl game, which is awesome. They might finally win one.
Everybody tells me he won three, and I lost two. They will have a
tremendous opportunity in the bowl game. Whoever the
coach is when he makes that decision will be awesome."
Head Coach Bret Bielema (on if the dream he is chasing is a national championship) - "When I say 'chase a dream', understand, reporters all the time put words in your mouth. I didn't say that. I said I came here to chase a dream and by that if what I want to chase is a byproduct of winning a national championship, that's awesome. I've never been to a place where I can give them something they've never had. I just won three Big Ten Championships in a row at Wisconsin. It hadn't been done in almost 35 years in the conference. It's something that you can't put a price tag on that. On the same account it's been done. Arkansas, it's never been done. Never won an SEC title. Been in the game three times. You don't have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that if you win the SEC title you might be playing in the big one, especially after 2014. That to me is what it's all about."
Head Coach Bret Bielema (on spending time in Arkansas and the people of Arkansas) - "I've spent minimal time in the state of Arkansas, but we actually recruited a tight end, Jake Byrne, who was a great player for us at Wisconsin. The things that Jeff got me excited about, and Jon and his staff, was I love people with passion. There's nothing that I love better than seeing a guy that's got maybe a blue collar job, a guy that goes about his job the same way every day. Maybe he has to go to work at six and he's done at three, but he's passionate about what he does. That's what I love. I love people that love what they're doing. The University of Arkansas has passionate people that support us. We have passionate supporters financially that is very, very apparent to me with the buildings that I'm seeing constructed and the things we have available to us, that they're very passionate about financially supporting us, which I'm very thankful for. But it's also the people that don't have the financial means to support us, but they do have the emotional means to support us, with great fans, great signs, great social media support. Whatever it is, it's fun to see that environment."
Head Coach Bret Bielema (on an offensive coordinator) - "I know this; there are a lot of great offensive philosophies out there. The things that I've seen work on the biggest stages have been offenses that can be consistent in what they're doing. They move the chains, they score touchdowns in the red zone, they don't beat themselves before the ball is snapped. One of the things that I pride myself on, I believe that in the last three years, the University of Wisconsin has been the least penalized team in the Big Ten. Three years ago, we were the least penalized in college football. We're not going to beat ourselves before the snap. That's an important aspect. Everybody wants to talk about how many games are won on Saturday. There are a lot of games that are lost on Saturday. People that fumble the football, people that throw interceptions, people that break down defensively, people that can't execute on special teams. It's important for us to learn how not to lose the game before we learn how to win the game and offensive philosophy will be a big part of that."
Head Coach Bret Bielema (on if he expects a more difficult transition coming off a 4-8 season) - "I would defer that to our players moving forward. I wasn't in the meeting rooms with John L. (Smith); I wasn't in the meeting rooms with Bobby (Petrino). All I know is how to coach the way I know how to coach. That speaks the truth to our players, I'm never going to lie, I'm never going to make something look better than it is. We're a 4-8 football team that a lot of people thought were going to be great at the beginning of the year. All I can do is move forward. Next year's preseason rankings, no one's going to rank us No. 1 in the West. I doubt we're going to be in the top four. We could be, just out of respect for this program. The fact of the matter is, in life a lot of people, they never cheer for the favorite. They pull for the underdog. Right now, we might be that guy. However we got there, whatever it is. Someday, I'm going to love being in front of you being the favorite. Right now, we're going to embrace being the underdog. We're going to kiss it and make it feel good. We can't accept it, but we're going to move forward. I don't want someone in this room right now to think that we're great. If you're settled with what we just got through, then we're not going to be where we need to be. I think that is very important. I want to tell that to our players, make them understand it, breed it, live it, love it."
Head Coach Bret Bielema (on how much he anticipates the offense changing) - "The offense that we end up running here, it's always going to be a transition. There's going to be new words, new vocabulary, and a new playbook. How much it relates to last year's offense versus next year's offense is to be determined. There's a certain idea in my mind of what I would like to have happen. I really want to get a feel for what our personnel is. The one thing I know about offense is the great respect you can have as a coach is when you're able to fit a plan to the team you have. I'm going to recruit a certain way, and you'll get more and more specific as the years go forward. If you don't have the right dogs in the race, then you are not going to win. Whatever race we get into with a philosophy, we have to make sure that we have the right people to run it."
Head Coach Bret Bielema (on what he learned from Hayden Fry) - "I've listened to Coach Fry talk so many times. I saw Coach Broyles coach at a national coaches convention when I was a young coach. I came to the University of Iowa as a farm kid. I knew how to work. I didn't have a scholarship. Every day after practice, all the great players wanted me to stay after and work with them. Coach Fry pulled me aside, and he didn't even know my name. He called me 86. That was my number, thank God. He just kept saying to me, 'Keep doing what you're doing, believe in what you're doing.' I ended up playing as a redshirt freshman. I think that's when he probably learned my name, because I was playing. The next year I was going through spring ball, and I tore my ACL in spring ball. I was talking to the trainer and he said 'You tore your ACL'. They said you could either fix it, and you'll be out six months to a year, or you can play and train your hamstring to take its place. You can see what happens. I said 'Let's do that.' They said you can play as soon as you can stand it. He goes, 'If you choose to play without an ACL, if you play at the next level in the NFL, they'll fail you on your physical'. I'm thinking I'm just trying to play at Iowa, I don't know about the NFL. I played seven days later, earned a scholarship. If I hadn't earned that scholarship, I probably wouldn't have been able to stay there because of my family surroundings. Little did I know, I started to play pretty good. I had a great NFL career - it was seven days. I failed my physical because I didn't have an ACL ligament. I started thinking to myself that was probably pretty dumb, but I wasn't good enough anyway. Coach Fry taught me during his career to just stick to what you know, be good at what you're doing, work hard, and good things are going to happen to good people. I could go for a million Coach Fry stories. I don't know Coach Broyles that well, but I'm sure there's a million of them too."
Head Coach Bret Bielema (on passion of the fans) - "I would say to embrace every moment of it. We're not going to do it overnight, but we're going to work day by day and I'll tell our players we're going to take it one day at a time, one play at a time, one hit at a time. I'm excited to be in this league. It's obvious that the people are very, very passionate. You just gained two of the biggest fans in me and Jen. I've got a pretty big family as well, so there's going to be people across the United States that just became Razorback fans."
Head Coach Bret Bielema (on misconceptions about his offense) - "Our offense at Wisconsin during my seven years commonly got grouped into traditional Big Ten offense. Especially for everyone in here, whether you're a Wisconsin fan or not, have probably heard of Ron Dayne, the national rushing record holder. Back then they did run the football. I played against them. They ran the ball 60 times because they could. It's a lot easier to run the ball than to throw the ball. The part that is real is during my time at the University of Wisconsin, we did have great balance. We were one of two or three teams that ran for 200 and threw for 200 (yards per game). That shows great balance, but it's very difficult to defend. You want to throw the ball all the time, okay play pass defense. If you want to run the ball all the time, play run defense. I think balance is the key."
Head Coach Bret Bielema (on recruiting in Texas and Florida) -
very important. Geographically, because of the SEC, Texas has always
impressed me, but obviously you have the Big 12. It's a very fertile
area, and you'll have your battles, but
we'll have to have that area covered well. One of the neat things I've
been able to do in my time as an assistant coach, coordinator, and head
coach, is to recruit the state of Florida. Especially in South Florida.
In the state of Florida you'll have kids
that will leave, and especially when you get below Orlando, those kids
will go anywhere. I'm excited to get there. I've signed over 50 kids
from the state of Florida in my coaching career. Some of those guys have
been my best players. At Wisconsin our secondary
this year is the best since I've been there, and we have three of the
four players from the state of Texas. So it's not uncommon ground, it's
something I'm very excited about moving forward on."
Head Coach Bret Bielema (on the new facilities)-"What got me excited in my initial talks with Jon and Jeff was the timing to be able to walk into these facilities in June and a few more additions after it. It is easy to see that there is a great need to be going through what we are going through right now. It is kind of fun that we are going to be able to come in here and do some things a little bit more. I think it is important for us to realize that I don't care if I am at Arkansas or if I was at Wisconsin, I believe in player development. I believe that a player in year one is going to be a good player but in year four he can be great if he is developed. Not only developed physically, but mentally and socially. Those are three things that go together in a big, big way. That facility is going to allow us to do those things. You are going to see a change in the way our kids approach. Maybe even a simple thing like getting involved in the community, one of the things that I have always done is make our kids do a certain number of hours of community service. Kids a lot of times will resist but then they go in and read to a second grade class and they love it and now they want to go again. That makes him a better player on Saturday because he is giving back. I think there are a lot of areas, not just in buildings but in people that we can build and improve on here."
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