FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — This is unlike other countdowns you have seen honoring Arkansas’ 25 seasons in the SEC.
These are memories. And we here at SEC Country wanted to reflect on the best — and worst — memories of the past 25 years.
This countdown is not of the best football moments. These aren’t simply the best games. This is built to bring back memories. It includes “where were you when …” snapshots and more broad tales of players, teams and seasons.
There have been highs — national championships and mega upsets — and lows, like motorcycles and, well, mega upsets. Coaches have come and gone. So have athletic directors. Cries of joy and cries of agony.
Yes, putting together the top 25 moments of Arkansas’ 25 seasons in the SEC was quite the task. There were far too many on the initial list. So, we had to set some rules.
First, this is limited to the so-called “big three” sports. Apologies to every other sport — especially track and field — but at some point comparing moments across the spectrum becomes impossible. Is a national championship in track and field more significant than a College World Series appearance? And if so (or, if not), how do you determine that?
Second, the list isn’t simply based on significance. It’s a combination of mass, importance, spectacle and simple, raw human emotion. Input came from varying sources on how to rank these memories, too. Our say was the final one. But, accordingly, everyone will have different takes on such a list.
We just hope you enjoy ours.
24. Arkansas hires Bret Bielema
Arkansas shocked the college football world in December of 2012 with the hiring of Bret Bielema as its 32nd head coach. The news broke Dec. 4, three days after Bielema had led Wisconsin to a third straight Big Ten title.
Bielema was never believed to be a serious candidate in the weeks leading up to the hire. Names such as Mike Gundy, Chris Petersen and even Les Miles made headlines in connection to Arkansas. Yet, there was nary a word regarding Bielema.
He was also highly successful with the Badgers, going 68-24 in seven seasons to go along with the conference titles. Why leave that? And to the SEC? Bielema is an Illinois native who played at Iowa. He seemed to embody the Big Ten and had spoken out against recruiting tactics often deployed in the SEC.
But Bielema to Arkansas happened. And it was largely viewed as an outstanding hire, with the credit going to athletic director Jeff Long for pulling it off.
“I’m just glad that the opportunity came at Arkansas,” Bielema said at his introductory press conference. “There’s probably only two or three schools that I would’ve thought about this opportunity. And after I got involved in it, there’s only one school I would’ve done it for and that’s Arkansas.”
Wow. So, not only did Arkansas believe in Bielema, but he strongly believed in it as well. That ignited a fan base desperate for some positivity.
The Hogs landed Bielema just over eight months after Bobby Petrino was fired. The Petrino fallout led to a disastrous 2012 season. Under interim coach John L. Smith, the Razorbacks began the season as a top 10 team, only to finish 4-8 overall and 2-6 in the SEC. Bringing in Bielema was widely believed to be a move that would return Arkansas to the successful trend it had going under Petrino.
That hasn’t been the case just yet. At 25-26 with Arkansas, he’s lost more games in four years than in his seven at Wisconsin. As a result, opinions within the fan base are mixed regarding Bielema.
Regardless, his hiring was a significant moment in Arkansas’ SEC history.