FAYETTEVILLE — It used to be cold in Fayetteville. It was especially chilly around campus. That rectangular area between Maple and Meadow streets and Razorback Road and Stadium Drive held some strange meteorological phenomenon.

Then the weather patterns changed. Coincidentally it happened about the time Bobby Petrino was fired as football coach at Arkansas. Those clouds began to lift. The rain went from a deluge to a drizzle. It was hardly springtime in Paris when John L. Smith was tabbed as the guy, but wasn’t a mess of a hurricane, either.

Now, with Bret Bielema, the sun is shining. Players are chipper. The media relations staff is affable and willing. It’s like the difference between January in Canada and January in Australia.

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette’s Tom Murphy covered the team under both Bielema and Petrino. The most significant difference for him is the access.

Petrino opened practice more often than Bielema does. But that’s about the only place where the former coach was easier to deal with. Bielema is charismatic, a charmer, even. His press conferences are about twice as long as Petrino’s were. A lot of that is due to his willingness to engage.

And that’s with both players and media, Murphy said.

“They play for different reasons. For Bielema they play because they love the guy,” he said. “There’s this team thing. For Petrino, you didn’t want to mess up and get yelled at. That was different.”

Not that Bielema doesn’t yell. There have been a fair share of expletives dropped. But not nearly as much as there were five and six years ago. And, as it’s turned out, Petrino’s ex-players have later admitted the coach would say demeaning or disrespectful things to them, and not just as an effort to motivate.

That isn’t happening anymore. On the occasions Bielema opens the practices to the assembled media, it isn’t uncommon to see his players dancing, laughing and chuckling throughout. Then, when Bielema arrives, the half-hour session with the media typically results in 10 questions answered. Bielema goes off on tangents and stumbles. But it’s (almost) always friendly and somewhat comedic. Purposefully.

Through their second seasons at Arkansas, the two are on similar tracks. In Petrino’s third, the Razorbacks won 10 games. In Bielema’s third, the hope is they might. It’s the ultimate question of catching college football flies: with vinegar or with honey?

“It’s hard to say how much happier the players were,” Murphy said. “They were winning games so that made an impact on it. (But) I genuinely get the feel these guys all love playing for this coaching staff. They play for different reasons.”