GAINESVILLE, Fla. — No stranger to controversial comments, Arkansas coach Bret Bielema caused quite a stir Wednesday during his appearance on ESPN2.
While discussing his 2016 class, Bielema brought up Florida and appeared to call into question the recruiting tactics used by the Gators under UF coach Jim McElwain.
“Florida, kind of the new Ole Miss, they’re doing some things in recruiting that just kind of shocks you a little bit,” Bielema said.
Ole Miss is currently under NCAA investigation for rules violations related to recruiting misconduct. During his Signing Day press conference, McElwain was asked about Bielema’s comments and fired back.
“You got to get a kick out of it a little bit because obviously this guy doesn’t know who the heck I am,” McElwain said. “I sure as heck don’t know who he is. I’m not sure we really ran into him on the recruiting trail, but you know I know what I’m all about.
“I know what the University of Florida is all about and I think if you were to poll anybody in college football I think that they’d know that Mac does it right. I have no idea what this guy was talking about to be honest.”
On Wednesday, UF beat out Arkansas for wide receiver Tyrie Cleveland, a Houston commit, and flipped junior college cornerback Joseph Putu from the Razorbacks. Bielema later clarified his comments during his presser and said he has apologized to both McElwain and Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze.
“I said something earlier that came across in the wrong way, I guess,” Bielema said. “I was paying a compliment to Florida. We’ve seen them kind of pop up everywhere. Before my last couple years here, really had only competed against Florida in Georgia and Florida itself a lot, because I love to recruit Florida. Well, this last week we were competing against them on a wide receiver in Texas, a running back, a player in Louisiana and a player in North Dakota. And I’ve never seen that before; that’s all I was making reference to.
“It’s kind of like last week, we stumbled across an offensive lineman in Illinois and I really liked him and started to proceed with him and found out he — before I got anything going — had committed to Ole Miss. And I told my staff, ‘Ole Miss, they’re everywhere.’ That’s kind of the comment we make. It wasn’t in reference to anything other than that. I mean that wholeheartedly and honestly, and when I said that earlier, I was paying a compliment to Florida.
“I’ve called (McElwain) and told him that as well as Hugh, and that was received well. So, I’ll put that little nugget to bed.”
Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley also spoke on the matter: “Obviously Bret clarified his remarks as he should have. We know what Coach Mac stands for and what our standards are here at the University of Florida.”