As he prepares to take his No. 18 Arkansas football team to Little Rock this weekend to play Toledo, Razorback head football coach Bret Bielema was asked what it was that made him leap from Wisconsin to his current post.
“I think there are a couple of things that were very exciting to me before I ever came here,” Bielema said on Wednesday’s SEC Telconference. “I had only been in Arkansas one time my entire life and that was when we recruited a tight end when I was at Wisconsin that was from Rogers, Arkansas.
“So I had flown into XNA one time and seen the scenery one time and it was a beautiful part of the country, but that was really about it.
“First and foremost, it was about the demographics. I was really excited that it was kind of like I had at Wisconsin in that you are the main program in the state.
“No disrespect to Arkansas State, I love what they accomplish and I love what they do, but to be the one program in the state in the power 5 conferences and to not have any other pro teams in the state, I knew it was a chance to kind of galvanize the state if you did things right.
“Get everybody behind you – north, east, south, west, central – and that has been really fun.”
The other major factor was that he had recently married his wife Jen and this gave them a new start together.
“And then just for my wife and I to kind of move into a new challenge together as we all know that when you become married, it’s a partnership that lasts on the field, off the field and everything in between,” Bielema said, “and to just kind of partner with her on a lot of different things from recruiting to charity events to the community and that has just been off the charts.
“I also think the environment that Jeff Long has created here really bodes well. The family atmosphere with (Razorback basketball coach) Mike Anderson, with (Lady Razorback head coach) Jimmy Dykes, with Coach (Dave) Van Horn in baseball, it is just a really neat thing to be a part of.”
Bielema was then asked about how he had changed since arriving in Arkansas.
“When you are older, you get a little wiser,” Bielema said. “I love to compete, don’t get me wrong, but I use to relish in that moment a little longer than I needed to and it was a competitive nature thing all the time.
“I was relentless at that and that probably rubbed some people the wrong way because I would kind of remind people of it all the time. We were successful and maybe there was a little bit of overconfidence.
“I always say don’t confuse confidence with cockiness. I want our players to be confident as well as me, but a lot of times people confuse that with cockiness and I can see how that came across at an earlier age.
“We are very respectful and humble for what we have been given here but on the same account I probably do try and respect the game and our conference and everything else a little bit more.”
Paul Finebaum, Jen Bielema