HOOVER, Ala. — Arkansas Razorbacks football coach Bret Bielema will be the first to appear Monday at SEC Media Days inside the Wynfrey Hotel. The conference really must have wanted to kick the week off with a bang.
(Actually, Bielema going first is purely the result of his wife’s pregnancy. The Bielemas welcomed daughter Brielle Nichole to the world on Saturday.)
But if Bielema does go first, there’s a good chance he’ll deliver that opening bang. He has seemingly replaced the ever-quotable Steve Spurrier as the star of this crazy annual gathering that often feels more like a circus than a serious gathering of coaching professionals. And no coach in the league right now knows how to draw a crowd and turn heads better than Bielema.
In 2015, he described beating Texas in a bowl game as “borderline erotic.” Last year, he shocked a relatively boring Media Days into life after a couple days — and 11 coaches’ worth — of coach speak and platitudes. Bielema used the word “sexy” three times within the first five minutes of his news conference and even threw a little shade at other programs’ offseason legal problems.
Bielema — a marketing major at the University of Iowa — almost seems to come prepared with a couple lines that he thinks might get attention. So operating under that assumption, here are a few things he might come prepared to discuss in Hoover.
Nothing — not even the beginning of another football season — is more important in Bret Bielema’s life right now than becoming a father. He’s had lots of quips and jokes in the past involving his family (and even his wife), so there’s no reason to believe he won’t have a one-liner or two ready to go about becoming a dad.
The Bielemas had a girl on Saturday and given all we know about Bret and Jen, is there any doubt that they’re going to be terrific parents? Similarly, is there any doubt that Bret is going to embarrass the heck out of his daughter every chance he gets?
I’m guessing Bret’s comments on this subject will provide the funniest moments of the day Monday.
Bielema was one of the most outspoken coaches in college football a couple years ago during the intense debate about the rules surrounding up-tempo, no-huddle offenses. At one point, Bielema referenced a Cal player’s death during a team workout to support his argument — a crass, wrongheaded remark for which he rightly apologized.
He hasn’t spoken quite as much on that subject since the proposed rule change — which would have prohibited offenses from snapping the ball until 10 seconds had run off the play clock — was tabled. But he poked his head back into the debate with a tweet in the middle of last week. Bielema was responding to a tweet from the American Football Coaches Association that read, “The quicker information is signaled, the more confident the unit will be before the snap.”
Bielema’s response? “Or you can try this old school thing that the #NFL still uses today called a HUDDLE.”
— Bret Bielema (@BretBielema) June 29, 2017
Bielema’s Arkansas program continues to use a huddle despite the widespread proliferation of up-tempo, no-huddle offenses. His tweet hints that he might be willing to resume his crusade, and where better to do that than at SEC Media Days?
The future Arkansas-Notre Dame series
On Thursday, Arkansas and Notre Dame announced a home-and-home series that includes games in 2020 (in South Bend) and 2025 (in Fayetteville).
Last year, one of Bielema’s uses of the word “sexy” was in reference to a just-canceled Arkansas-Michigan home-and-home. Michigan canceled on the Razorbacks to resume its rivalry with — of all teams — Notre Dame. The Hogs and Wolverines were supposed to play in 2018 and 2019.
“I’m sorry,” Bielema said. “The Michigan-Notre Dame thing sounds sexy to everybody else, but I think Michigan and Arkansas sounds sexy.”
As it turns out, Notre Dame and Arkansas sounded “sexy” to the right people and is now on both programs’ future schedules. Of course, these things are scheduled so far in advance that I suppose this home-and-home — which I think is awesome — could be nixed, too.
Maybe Bielema will use this opportunity Monday to jab Michigan again. Or maybe Bielema — who grew up in Illinois and then played and coached for years in the Big Ten — is especially fired up to play the Fighting Irish.
This news coming just before SEC Media Days makes it a great topic for conversation in Hoover.