Arkansas writer believes Bret Bielema is out, names target for Razorbacks
The main reason many believe Arkansas fired Athletics Director Jeff Long is because the next move for the school will be to fire coach Bret Bielema.
Wally Hall of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette was a guest on The Paul Finebaum Show Wednesday and said that Long was liked by some members of the Board of Trustees, but that support disappeared in recent days. A detailed report of Long’s “business tactics” was developed and once that was circulated, the AD’s job security was in jeopardy, Hall said. Suddenly, there was a 5-5 split on the board, and instead of receiving a contract extension, Long’s future was in doubt.
“For it to happen today was a little surprising,” Hall said. “I felt like it was going to happen through my sources and things that were going on, but for it to happen two weeks before the end of the season, and Jeff has two more weeks on the football selection committee, that was almost like somebody was wanting to get even. ‘You embarrassed me, I’m going to embarrass you.'”
"I don't think there's any doubt he'll probably be gone" – @WallyLikeItIs on the future of Head Coach Bret Bielema
— Paul Finebaum (@finebaum) November 15, 2017
One caveat to the possible AD and coaching search is that if an AD isn’t hired, Hall said he finds it difficult to believe Arkansas could hire a coach.
“You know how coaches are, they want security, they want to know who they’re working for,” Hall said.
Names that immediately came to mind for a possible Bielema replacement were Memphis coach Mike Norvell and Auburn coach Gus Malzahn. Hall also floated Chad Morris at SMU, “and maybe his athletics director, too” along with Purdue coach Jeff Brohm.
One other hurdle for Arkansas, in Hall’s mind, is that there are better jobs around the SEC already open, in Florida and Tennessee, and another potential opening at Texas A&M.
Finebaum asked about the realistic chances of Malzahn getting the Arkansas job.
“Gus has to be offered the job, it would seem logical to me,” Hall said. “I think his wife Kristi might want to come back.”
The stumbling block for that scenario would be if Auburn won out and made the College Football Playoff, Malzahn’s chances of going to Arkansas would all but disappear.
If Malzahn is not in the Playoff, “I’d say it’s 75, 80 percent they would offer. But he would weigh all those options. I think Gus loves Arkansas, it’s his home. But he’s not going to have as many weapons to work with. Arkansas is automatically handicapped in recruiting. If the University of Arkansas takes more than eight players in-state, they’re having a bad year. The state does not produce many high D-I players, certainly not SEC caliber.”
“… But I think they have to consider Gus. His success speaks for itself. Homegrown guy. I think it’ll come down to the decision would be squarely in his corner, and having known Gus for 20 years, I’ll tell you right now, I don’t know what he’d say.”