"He impressed me as a coach and as a person," Arkansas Athletic Director Jeff Long said after Wednesday's introduction of Bielema. "We had a great conversation. I just remembered him from that. In our profession, when someone impresses you, you follow that career. So I followed his career."
That tracking went both directions. After Long fired Bobby Petrino following a very public scandal, Bielema wrote the Razorback AD a hand-written letter commending his leadership.
"I saw Jeff Long get up in front of a group of reporters and make a very difficult decision," Bielema said on the Jim Rome Radio Show. "The emotion that he showed showed me a person that cares about his program. All I did was reach out to him and said it's great to see these things in the world of college football."
"When he did that, it left an imprint on me," Long said. "As we went through the search, he was somebody that I even researched more when I got that note."
Hiring Bielema away was no slam dunk. He'd guided Wisconsin to the top of the Big Ten mountain with three straight conference championships.
"I thought that note may mean he has some interest," Long said. "Honestly I didn't know whether he would have some interest or not. I hoped he would."
The two sides met late Monday night into early Tuesday morning. Long made the offer. Bielema accepted. But neither man ever spoke with Bielema's boss until after the deal had been struck.
"I didn't know until noon yesterday. He came in and said we had to talk and informed me that Arkansas had offered him the head job and he had made the decision he was going to do it," Wisconsin Athletic Director Barry Alvarez said in an exclusive interview with the Wall Street Journal. "I asked him, 'Have you made a decision?' He said yes."
"Coach Alvarez is a very persuasive individual," Bielema said at his introductory press conference. "Before I went and saw him, I knew what I was doing and had to do. It happened very very quickly."