By Ryan Glasspiegel
My first reaction to the news that Bret Bielema was leaving Wisconsin for Arkansas?
Pure, unbridled joy.
My second reaction?
More of the same.
I attended over 40 games in the Bret Bielema era. I’m aware that his teams went 68-24 and made three straight Rose Bowls. In fact, that’s precisely why I’m so ecstatic: we were never getting rid of him unless he left.
Wisconsin lost five games this year, and would have lost a sixth if not for a missed 32-yard field goal by Utah State as time expired. It was like a dentist appointment that lasted three months. The demolition of Nebraska raises more questions about why the team didn’t perform like that in any other game against a legitimate opponent this season than it vindicates Bielema.
When the Red Sox signed John Lackey, Bill Simmons saw a red flag:
I gotta say, Angels fans have made me VERY nervous about the Lackey Era. None of them seemed sad that he left, all of them thought he got overpaid, and none of them seemed to trust him. I hate spending big money for a guy whose old fan base basically says, “Good riddance!” And I liked the Lackey signing. But this is stressing me out. Leave me alone, Angels fans.
That Bielema was Arkansas’ 10th choice — at best — should be even less worrisome than the fact that heaps of Badger fans like myself are pumped that he’s gone.
Bielema is like a fat, white version of Andy Reid.
While he did a very good job gameplanning for opponents and training players, Bielema’s clock management was regularly horrific. I diagrammed this in detail last season after Wisconsin’s loss to Michigan State and in passing in the wake of their loss to Ohio State.
In the Big Ten, Bielema went 23-1 against Minnesota, Indiana, Illinois, and Purdue and 16-18 against everybody else. The team has had massive struggles in close games as of late. Per Tom Oates of the Wisconsin State Journal:
A thorough check of UW’s fact book revealed that it has had a problem finishing for a while. Dating back to the Rose Bowl at the end of the 2010 season, the Badgers’ last nine losses have been by a touchdown or less. During that time, UW has won three close games, against non-conference foes Northern Iowa and Utah State at home this season and Michigan State in last year’s Big Ten title game.
Bielema took the money to leave a better situation.
The SEC is better than the Big Ten. Yeah, but that doesn’t mean that every SEC job is better than every Big Ten job. Since the BCS began in 1998, Wisconsin has five appearances while Arkansas has one. Wisconsin produces better NFL talent. (See here vs here.)
If you think Bielema is equipped to thrive in — or even endure — the SEC gauntlet, you ignored the last section. His teams beat up on cupcakes, but were mediocre against legitimate competition–especially in recent years.
For those that don’t think Wisconsin’s a better job than Arkansas: which team do you think is more likely to make it to the CFB playoffs first?
The grass isn’t always greener, but, again, good riddance.
Wisconsin has made three consecutive Rose Bowls. Very few programs’ fans would not trade positions with me. A Northwestern fan called me spoiled. It’s possible that the Badgers whiff on their next coach and we find ourselves romanticizing these good old days.
For now, though, I’m ecstatic. I always felt that Bielema’s clock management capabilities and overall lack of intelligence gave the Badgers a discernible ceiling. They could rack up Rose Bowl appearances from now till eternity but I never went into a season thinking a national championship berth was a legitimate possibility.
I trust Barry Alvarez to find the right man for the job, whether that’s Paul Chryst, Darrell Bevell, or someone we haven’t thought about yet. (Please dear LORD don’t let it be Brad Childress or Bill Callahan, though.)
Delusional Arkansas fans who are talking themselves into this hire are building themselves up to get categorically KNOCKED DOWN. Bielema is going to get eaten alive in the SEC.