Bielema was introduced as the 32nd UA head football coach at 4 p.m. Wednesday in the Broyles Center. It was just a little more than two days after his first meeting with Jeff Long, the UA athletic director who got his attention by the way he handled the Bobby Petrino termination.
Bielema and Long both took a crack at explaining how SEC speed might enable the new coach to be a little more aggressive in his play calling at Arkansas after grinding it out to three straight Rose Bowls at Wisconsin while posting a seven-year mark of 68-24.
Long said he's been watching Bielema from afar since meeting him as a 33-year-old Wisconsin assistant at a beach event at the 2005 national championship game at Miami. Then, he got a letter of encouragement from Bielema in September praising the UA athletic director for leadership over his April work -- along with a few of his own leadership ideas.
Bielema and Long met on the Arkansas job for the first time Sunday night in New York City, met again Monday morning, then signed the deal on a private jet ride to Madison on Tuesday.
Long said he interviewed three other coaches, one before his Sunday trip to New York City. None were interviewed before the end of their regular seasons. Bielema said his first contact -- other than the letter -- came via a voice message on his cell phone by UA senior associate AD Jon Fagg that he listened to Sunday.
"There are a lot of great offenses," Bielema said when asked about his style. "The ones that work are the ones that are consistent. Don't beat yourself before the snap. There are a lot of games that aren't won, they are lost."
Bielema, a former defensive coordinator, said there are six offensive coordinators on his wish list. And, he hinted that he's not scared of the pass, a misconception he's been fighting since taking over for Barry Alvarez as Badgers coach.
"It was commonly grasped from the days of Ron Daynes that all that was done was run the ball," he said. "What's real, we had great balance. There were times we ran it for 200 (yards), passed for 200. That's very difficult to defend. Balance is the key."
Bielema has taken notice as coaches with Big Ten backgrounds like Nick Saban and Les Miles won in the SEC at Alabama and LSU.
"A lot of coaches with my type background have had success here," Bielema said. "I'm excited to see what we can do with the caliber of athletes in the SEC. I have no apprehension at all."
Long said he centered his search on leadership characteristics, not a preference in run versus the pass. But he likes what he got in Bielema's defensive nature and focus on the run.
"I think you heard him say that he thinks that the SEC speed that is now more readily available to him here and will allow him to do some different things," Long said. "I didn't look towards a coach with an offensive style or a defensive style.
"I think we could have built on what Coach (Bobby) Petrino did here (in the pass), so it wasn't like that. No, the key was leadership, an emotional, passionate leader. I knew Bret was a strong leader."
But, there was a but.
"I did think that there had been success with a certain style and Bret brings that style. I think what you see with him is that he adapts to the athletes, but with the availability of more speed it could be that he plays a little different style.
"I like hard-nosed football. I do like it when the ball is thrown around, too. But when you take what Bret has done as far as grind it out, I think it helps your defense. You see that they've had firepower and now he might have access to a different level of skilled athlete.
"But I think to win a championship, you have to be strong on defense. And I do think a certain level of running the football helps the defense."
Long's meaning became crystal clear a little later.
"I'm saying that I believe that you have to stop the run," Long said, who then raised his voice slightly while adding, "then you have to stop the run, then when that's done, you have to stop the run and then it's about stopping the run again. I think running the football on offense prepares your defense for that in practice. If all you do in practice is throw, it doesn't prepare you to stop the run."
Bielema had fun at the microphone after first apologizing for his raspy voice, the product of a little too much yelling in the Big Ten title game on Saturday night. He also apologized for any that find fault with his first attempt at Calling the Hogs just ahead of his first question-and-answer session.
"To clarify, this is my first public Pig Sooie," he said. "I did it from the age of 4 to 18, but my only partners were pigs."
Bielema's parents raised pigs -- sometimes 2,500 at a time -- in rural Illinois before he left home to try it as a walk-on football player at Iowa under Hall of Fame coach Hayden Fry.
"Today is an opportunity to chase a dream -- and I didn't get here the normal way -- a dream that started on a pig farm."
Bielema later identified the dream as an SEC championship. Clearly, he knows the Hogs haven't won a league title since joining the nation's best league in 1992.
"I can't wait to stand in front of you and be the favorite," Bielema said. "Right now we're going to embrace being the underdog. We're going to throw two arms around it, we're gonna kiss it and make it feel good.
"I'm not going to promise you anything. I will tell you I'm here because I want to give you something you've never had."
Bielema said he cried when he left the farm to go to college, but knows that the values that were instilled there by his father are the key to his success.
"I cried like crazy because it's all I knew," he said. "I learned what's important there, do it right the first time so you won't have to go back and do it again. I learned that on the farm."
Bielema said he knew about Arkansas from his early days from his favorite uncle who still lives in Little Rock. He said he has a cousin in Fayetteville. While donning a Razorback cap, he said he's had them before, Christmas gifts from the Arkansas relatives.
"They used to bring me Razorback gear," he said. "You have the passion here. I witnessed it my first year at Wisconsin, when the only game we lost was to Michigan on a bad call. I couldn't say anything about it then, but I'm not in that conference anymore."
That was in reference to Wisconsin's 17-14 victory over the Hogs in the Capital One Bowl.
"Everywhere I went (in Orlando), I heard the cat calls of the Pig Sooie," he said. "I've come full circle."
Long outlined the search in his opening remarks to start the press conference.
"Last April when we began this process I talked about the characteristics we were looking for and it was someone who shared the passion and success that our fans do and is willing to work tirelessly to achieve those goals," he said. "It would be someone who embraces the high expectations to win an SEC championship and a national championship. It would be someone who has discipline and accountability in their program, both on the field and in the classroom. It would also be someone who would lead our student-athletes and coaches with honesty and integrity and class on and off the field and, finally, someone who embraced the passion of football and embraced the passion of this fan base and what it means to all of us throughout the state of Arkansas.
"There is no question that the new head football coach embodies all of these characteristics. I'm proud to say that the coach we are introducing to the Razorback Nation today meets all of those expectations and has a football resume that includes five New Year's Day Bowl games, three Rose Bowls, two Big Ten championships and he has done this all in seven years and all before the ripe old age of 43.
"Just as important, he also brings the commitment of impacting the lives of the student-athletes he works with. His most recent APR was a 975, 50 points above the 925 benchmark. He also, over the last three years, has had 60 Academic All-Big Ten football selections on his team. He has a style of physical football that has led to some of the most dominating defenses in the country, an offense that begins with winning at the line of scrimmage.
"You also see that balanced offensive approach can produce some 70 points as he did last week in the Big Ten Championship Game. He is a coach who has won the right way both on and off the field. He is a coach that deeply values his relationships with student-athletes, and that means a great deal to me.
"He's not on the farm, but he is around Hogs again."
There were questions for Bielema about leaving Wisconsin and Barry Alvarez, his athletic director and mentor.
"I appreciate the question and I understand that I left a great place," Bielema said. "I left a place that gave me my first head coaching job. One of the things that I really believe in as a coach is that if you can leave a place in a better place than where you were, you should feel good. We gave them three straight Big Ten championships. That had never been done before.
"I would love to say thank you to Coach Alvarez, my AD that gave me a tremendous amount of guidance. It was a very difficult decision. It wasn't something that I just had to think about. I have had some opportunities come my way the last two years that made me think a little bit.
"I have such a tremendous respect for Wisconsin, but the opportunity to be in the SEC is something that I really wanted to do. Early on in my coaching career I was given the opportunity to become a defensive coordinator. I let that opportunity go by. It was probably the best thing I ever did, but it made me think about coaching in the SEC and I am just glad the opportunity came at Arkansas.
"There were only two or three schools that I would have thought about doing this for. After I got involved in it there was only one school I would have done it for, and that was Arkansas."
Bielema was asked about some quotes about not wanting to be like the SEC while at Wisconsin. He was ready for the questions.
"I think obviously the comments I made in regards to the SEC a year ago, you have to understand this, a year ago I was the coach at the University of Wisconsin," he said. "I was the two-time defending Big Ten Champion. The issues that came about because of that comment really had nothing to do with what was going on.
"Unfortunately it got spun into that. I wasn't misquoted because I said it but the quotes that weren't really at the root of what the question was. I have a great amount of respect for the SEC. That is why I am standing in front of you today. The part that I think you guys have to appreciate, where you are is what you need to protect and stand up for what you believe in. Nobody will have a stronger support of the SEC than myself."
Jeff Long (left) presents a Razorback hat to new coach Bret Bilema.
Bret Bilema and wife Jen lead their first Hog Call.