Bielema to Arkansas Indicative of B1G Problems
By Tony Gerdeman
When news broke that Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema was leaving the Badgers for the same position at Arkansas, I shook my head in total belief.
The only reason for the head coach of the Big Ten's version of Wisconsin to leave for the SEC's version of Wisconsin is money, and that's nothing new in the Big Ten.
Everybody, including the Big Ten, loves to talk about how much money the Big Ten schools make, but rarely do those Big Ten schools ever part with any of it when it comes to football.
As successful as Wisconsin has been for the last two decades, there's no reason for them to ever be outbid for their own coach. That is, unless they just didn't view him as that much of a loss.
If they don't view him as much of a loss, why didn't they ever try to get somebody better? If they don't think enough of him to keep him when somebody else wants him, why did they think enough of him to keep him when nobody else wanted him?
Clearly, they liked him, just not enough to keep him. What's three consecutive Rose Bowls worth these days? I guess it doesn't matter since they've already been paid for.
Perhaps Bielema simply wanted out because he was bitter at the athletic department for not being able to keep the slew of assistants that left following the 2011 season. If so, that's even more damning on the university's part. This was an entirely preventable situation that Wisconsin simply didn't view as important enough to do so.
Wisconsin and Bielema were made for each other, and the results have clearly proven it. If he wasn't sure that he wanted to be in Madison any longer, then either Wisconsin believes that he is easily replaceable, or they simply didn't want to spend a fraction of their millions to convince him to stay.
In either case, however, it's hard to see Wisconsin's side here. Bielema will leave as the second-winningest coach in school history (68 wins), and his winning percentage (74%) is 13 points higher than Barry Alvarez, who is the school's all-time leader in wins with 118.
For the athletic department to think that they can do better is a blatant case of wishful thinking. I would assume Wisconsin's next press conference will take place in the middle of a fountain, standing amidst a thousand rusted pennies.
Wisconsin went 35 years between good hires, and just because the last two have worked out better than any two before it, doesn't mean things are always going to be this grand. What are the odds a school like Wisconsin goes three for three?
What Wisconsin has done not only weakens their own product, but it also weakens the Big Ten's product.
I've said it before, but a Big Ten school's first new investment shouldn't be practice facilities or new offices, it needs to be a head coach. After the head coach, it needs to be assistant coaches. Then once that is done, maybe they can go ahead and finish a building or two.
After all, what good is a building if the coach giving tours never has anything to show off in the trophy case?
What Arkansas (a mid-level SEC program) did was come into the Big Ten and hire away one of the conference's premiere coaches. Since Bielema was named Wisconsin head coach in 2006, no other Big Ten coach comes close to his number of wins.
That's not a shot across the bow by the SEC, that's full on boarding.
Imagine Purdue hiring away Mississippi State's Dan Mullen. It would never happen. Yet Bret Bielema going to Arkansas is the most believable thing you will read all day.
Too many teams in the Big Ten like to bring people around and show them their stashes of cash, but when somebody asks them why they never spend it, they are completely flummoxed.
"But if we spent our money, we wouldn't have it anymore," they say.
Wisconsin lost Bret Bielema today, but don't worry, they happily kept their money.
Maybe they can put that in their trophy case.
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