Analyst: Bret Bielema doing better job with Arkansas than he did with Wisconsin
In each season under head coach Bret Bielema, Arkansas has not only improved its overall record year after year, the Razorbacks have also improved the number of league games won under Bielema. However the coach has yet to reach the nine-win plateau in Fayetteville after doing so five times in seven years as the head coach of Wisconsin.
From the outside looking in, many would likely believe Bielema’s best coaching job was done in the Big Ten, but would they be right?
One thing you have to consider: Bielema inherited a Wisconsin team from Barry Alvarez that had won 19 games the previous two seasons. After coaching the Badgers for 16 seasons, Alvarez hand picked Bielema to run the program in 2006. With the foundation in place, Bielema did what any good coach would do and took Wisconsin to new heights – winning 12 games and beating (ironically) Arkansas in the Capital One Bowl.
Bielema was tasked with rebuilding the Arkansas program left in the wake of the Bobby Petrino scandal and the forgettable John L. Smith season that ended in a 4-8 campaign. Having to rebuild the roster is one thing, doing it in the nation’s toughest division is quite another, as Dave Bartoo of CFB Matrix pointed out Friday on the Sports Talk with Bo Mattingly.
“By the measures we have here, and we came up with a new one actually in terms of coaching staff, ranking a staff in terms of efficiency versus its talent. I think you have a really good coach there (in Arkansas),” Bartoo said on the air. “(Bielema’s) coach effect numbers were positive at Wisconsin, I think he’s doing a better job of coaching now than he did with the Badgers.
“Numbers aside, everyone is going to want to look at win/loss record but you know his coach effect is over plus-1 game a year. Your last two years your recruiting class by my numbers is about the four-year moving average of the previous four years, so you have a more talented team, you have a coach that coaches beyond the talent for the schedule. You are just in a brutal division with a talent disadvantage. Getting double digit wins, if anyone gets double digit wins there it’s just an unbelievable season.”
While Bielema has yet to reach the lofty goal of a 10-win season in Fayetteville, the Razorback coach found a way to post his first winning record in SEC play last season (5-3) and appears to have set a solid – with an upward progression of talent coming into the program – foundation for years to come. As Bartoo notes, don’t get completely locked in by the overall numbers, Bielema has done an excellent job for Arkansas thus far.