Arkansas Razorbacks head football coach Bret Bielema is not on the hot seat for the 2017 season, according to Athletic Director Jeff Long per SEC Country.
Long told Jason Kersey that Bielema, who is 25-26 overall and 10-22 in Southeastern Conference games since his 2013 hiring, is in no danger of having his job scrutinized during the upcoming 2017 campaign.
“Bret is the leader of our program,” said Long said during the SEC spring meetings in Destin, Florida. “The leader is more than just winning games. And I know some fans don’t want to hear that. Trust me, it doesn’t mean we aren’t competing with every fiber of our being to win in the toughest conference and the toughest division of that conference. But when you look at what Bret’s doing, we’re building a program that’s built on an outstanding foundation.”
Fans have been especially critical of Bielema’s on-field performance given that he replaced the Bobby Petrino regime, which went 34-17 overall and 17-15 in the SEC in his four seasons with the program compared to Bielema’s four seasons at Arkansas.
Bielema says he does not feel like his seat is warming up heading into the 2017 season.
“I understand why people would think that,” Bielema said. “But I think our program is in a place where we’re extremely healthy.”
The former Wisconsin head coach from 2006-12 emphasized that the key to building a successful Arkansas program is through academics, staying out of off-field trouble, and on-field success.
Said Bielema: “In academics, we’re high as we’ve ever been. Socially, we don’t have a lot of problems. I’m not saying we’re all sitting around the camp fire singing ‘Kumbaya’ every night together, but our guys aren’t behaving poorly away from the game.”
The most recent player to notably get into off-field trouble was tight end Jeremy Sprinkle before the Belk Bowl on Dec. 29 when the White Hall native was caught shoplifting at the title sponsor’s store. Bielema deactivated Sprinkle the night before the game in the best interest of Sprinkle to underscore the consequences and prevent any future misgivings in the young man’s future.
All that remains for the Hogs is to fix the on-field performance. Bielema let go of defensive coordinator Robb Smith and replaced him with secondary Paul Rhoads to convert to a 3-4 scheme. Bielema also added defensive line coach John Scott, Jr. from the New York Jets and also outsider linebackers coach Chad Walker from the Atlanta Falcons.