Bret Bielema ready to 'chase a dream'
Posted by: Chris Vannini on December 5, 2012
One day after the college football world was stunned by Bret Bielema's decision to move from Wisconsin to Arkansas, he was "Calling the Hogs."
At his introductory press conference, Bielema shared his excitement to join Arkansas.
"What today brings is an opportunity to stand in front of you and chase a dream," he said. "I know I didn't get into coaching in a normal way. I grew up, ironically, on a pig farm. ... When I left the farm, I cried like crazy, because it was all I knew. I'm glad that I was raised that way, because one thing I've learned in this life and every job that I've had, every role that I've taken, every responsibility that I've gathered, it truly is up to you to put in the work put in the time, do it right the first time, because you won't have to go back and do it again. I only learned that through my days on the farm."
Bielema certainly left a good job in Wisconsin, which will be making its third straight appearance in the Rose Bowl. He seemed like the ideal Big Ten guy, but admitted this was chance for him to "spread my wings" and fly further.
"It was a very difficult decision, something that I didn't just think about," he said. "I've had some opportunities come my way the last two years that made me begin to think a little bit. I have a tremendous respect for Wisconsin, but the opportunity to be in the SEC is just something I really wanted to do."
Bielema had a message from Arkansas the day after the Big Ten Championship Game. He met with school representatives in New York City shorty after, so things moved fairly quickly.
Bielema does have an aunt and uncle in Little Rock and a cousin in Fayetteville, so there are a few ties to the area.
As for his staff, Bielema said he will interview every Arkansas assistant and give them a fair shot to join his staff, but he didn't say if anyone was staying or coming with him.
Bielema said he has a list of about six people in mind for his offensive coordinator. He has always been a coach who fights for his assistants' salaries and wants them compensated well. It was a point he battled over during his time in Madison.
Asked about his "chase a dream" comment and whether or not that meant a national championship, Bielema said he wants to do something that has never been done.
"I've never been to a place where I can give them something they've never had," he said. "I just won three Big Ten championships in a row. Never been done in almost 35 years in the conference. We did something that you can't put a price tag on. But at the same time, it's been done.
"At Arkansas, it's never been done. They've never won an SEC title. Been in the game three times. Don't need to be a rocket scientist to figure out that if you win the SEC title, you might be playing in the big one. That is what a dream is all about."
The Razorbacks are coming off a disappointing 4-8 season. Bielema was asked if there will be a grace period for success before things are fully turned around. He admitted they'll be the underdog, but also challenged them to become the favorite.
"I guarantee you, in next year's preseason rankings, no one's going to rank us No. 1 in the west," he said. "I doubt we're going to be in the top four, we could be. But 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 may be that guy.
"However we got there, whatever it is, I'm going to love being in front of you some day talking about being a favorite, but right now, we're going to embrace being the underdog. ... I don't want someone in this room to think 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."
Chris Vannini is the lead writer for CoachingSearch.com and has covered Michigan State sports for The State News, The Oakland Press and MLive.com. He writes a weekly column for the Detroit Free Press on behalf of SB Nation. Vannini lives in Big Ten country, so his foot speed is far from SEC caliber, but his pulse on coaches is hard to match. Be sure to follow @CoachingBuzz on twitter and send your feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org