FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Arkansas coach Bret Bielema had high praise for Texas coach Charlie Strong during Bielema’s Monday news conference amid rumors that Strong will be fired.
Strong said earlier Monday that Bielema had reached out with a supportive text message over the weekend.
Bielema said that he first reached out to Texas defensive backs coach Clay Jennings, who previously worked at Arkansas under Bielema.
“He and I have known each other just a little bit through the profession, both defensive guys,” Bielema said of Strong. “He got the job at Louisville when I was at (Wisconsin) and I’d always admired his work. We’d recruited a lot against each other in Florida and stuff, so I just sent him a little something that, from an outsider, a guy who doesn’t compete against him every day.
“I just think he does things right.”
Virtually the entire Texas football team stood in the room during Strong’s emotional news conference Monday.
“If you have every one of your players standing outside your press conference, you’re doing something right,” Bielema said. “I know everybody wants wins or losses, but for what that man represents and what he’s shown throughout time, that’s pretty impressive to me.”
During a later answer about potential defensive changes this offseason, Bielema told reporters not to read too much into his text message to Strong.
Strong, after all, was a highly successful SEC defensive coordinator at Florida before he became Louisville’s head coach. Strong also was born and raised in the state of Arkansas and played college football at Central Arkansas.
The Razorbacks’ defense has struggled mightily this season, leading to some speculation about defensive coordinator Robb Smith’s future with the program.
“If we were the No. 2 rated defense in the country, I still would have reached out to Charlie,” Bielema said. “He’s just a person I respect.”