Bret Bielema fired as Arkansas coach after 5 seasons
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Arkansas football coach Bret Bielema was fired Friday, minutes after a 48-45 loss to Missouri.
The Razorbacks finished the season 4-8 and 1-7 in SEC play. Arkansas’ only conference win came against Ole Miss, which is on a self-imposed bowl ban.
Bielema exits after five seasons with a 29-34 record and an 11-29 mark in league play.
He was hired in 2012 by then-athletic director Jeff Long. Long was removed from his post on Nov. 15. Interim athletic director Julie Cromer Peoples officially removed Bielema as coach on Friday, in her first full week in that role.
“Shortly after the completion of [Friday’s] game, I met with Coach Bret Bielema and informed him of our decision to move forward with new leadership in the Razorback Football program,” Cromer Peoples said in a statement. “During the course of the past five seasons, we have not been able to sustain the success on the field that is expected and required at the University of Arkansas.
“There is no question that coach Bielema has been a valued and respected member of our department and that he has made a positive impact on the lives of our student athletes, including supporting them in their pursuit of graduation,” Cromer Peoples said.
Bielema replaced interim coach John L. Smith in December 2012. Smith, who was a fill-in for Bobby Petrino after Petrino wrecked his motorcycle and lied about the circumstances surrounding the incident, went 4-8 and 2-6 in the SEC. Arkansas went 3-9 and 0-8 in the SEC in Bielema’s first year.
Things improved in Years 2 and 3 of the Bielema era. Arkansas fans rushed the field at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium after the first SEC win under Bielema in 2014, a 17-0 victory over No. 20 LSU. He ultimately took the team to a Texas Bowl win over Texas. The next year, after a disappointing loss to Toledo early in the season, Arkansas rebounded and put together a solid year overall, going 8-5 with a Liberty Bowl win over Kansas State.
The regime started to unravel midway through the 2016 season. Auburn beat Arkansas 56-3, and the Razorbacks alternated wins and losses the rest of the regular season. A loss to last-place Missouri in the regular-season finale and the squandering of a 24-0 halftime lead against Virginia Tech in the Belk Bowl put Bielema under the microscope heading into 2017.
Arkansas has not looked good for a complete game this season. Back-to-back losses to TCU and Texas A&M were disappointing, but mostly close. Losses to South Carolina (48-22), Alabama (41-9), Auburn (52-20) and LSU (33-10) were not and made the coach’s removal a distinct possibility.
“Our goal has been and always will be to compete and win in the SEC and nationally. I firmly believe that with all that the University of Arkansas has to offer, including our history and tradition, our facilities, our passionate fan base and competing in the nation’s best conference, we will attract the interest of many of the top coaches in the nation,” Cromer Peoples said.
Arkansas records under Bret Bielema: