With everything that has been in the news lately about sexual assault allegations and cover ups at Baylor it’s not surprising that Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema was asked about that situation earlier this week.
It came up earlier during his press conference Tuesday at the SEC Meetings in Destin, Fla., and gave Bielema a chance to talk about how much character counts for him when it comes to recruiting.
“I’m not saying my entire career I have recruited all angels, but I definitely know to stay away from some situations,” Bielema said. “I just go back to the quote that (former Iowa head) Coach (Hayden) Fry used to say all the time ‘you recruit your own problems’ and that is something that I have lived by a long time.”
He is certainly aware of the incidents that cost Baylor head coach Art Briles his job and have also seen athletic director Ian McCaw and President-turned-Chancellor Kenneth Starr step down.
“Whatever happens every day outside of my program and in the world of college football, I am very aware of, but very seldom does it affect what I do,” Bielema said.
“I think it is great awareness, I think it is great education and it is great for teaching tools at time for our players.”
He also talked about the few ways that his players could lose their scholarship.
“Really the only way you can lose it is academic failure or social failure,” Bielema said. “We are not going to throw you off for jaywalking or a street violation of running through a red light, but if you repeatedly have bad grades, you are going to flunk out.
“If you have repeated social behavior or one big one that draws attention, you could be lost in a hurry.
“Regardless of age – whether it is a junior college or a high school player coming in – once that bridge is crossed, I don’t think you can go back.”
Bielema admits that he rarely has problems with players once they arrive at campus because of the vetting process he and his staff do ahead of time.
“If there is anything in his past, he is probably not going to make it to our campus,” Bielema said. “What I say is that if I am around a kid a lot, you begin to understand them.
“In my coaching career – and I have been around 11 years now – I have sent three players home early on visits after a day if I didn’t like their behavior.
“I remember my first year I recruited a pair of teammates. They came in together and one was highly recruited and one wasn’t.
“The one that was highly recruited, I sent him home after the first day and kept the other one around and he ended up being a team captain and is a coach now at a program that is very successful.
“The highly recruited one went to a school and within two years had a very, very bad departure because of his behavior.
“In that situation, I think I did the right thing.”
Certainly violence against women will not in any way be tolerated in his program according to Bielema, who admits he looked into one situation during the 2016 recruiting period regarding a potential graduate transfer.
“I think anytime there is some well-documented physical things toward women, it’s not a choice,” Bielema said. “It is the only thing you have to be able to do.
“For those who don’t believe in that, you don’t have much of a leg to stand on.
“I remember sitting in these meetings two years ago and I thought (former Missouri head) Coach (Gary) Pinkel - who I admire and respect and miss at these meetings – and he kind of made a statement that sometime you just have to do the right thing.
“That was kind of a cool moment for me because I’m not a father yet, but a lot of guys in that room are and I thought he was just kind of making a point that it is not all about the overall winning, but about doing the right thing.”
Bielema also heralded how his program had stressed academics and watched the team’s grade point average continually rise.
“One of the great things that we have had since I’ve been here is a higher gpa each semester,” Bielema said. “It’s as close to a 3.0 as I have ever been. I never achieved it personally.
“Over the last three years, we have had 100 players that were academic All-SEC. That leads the SEC in that time period and some of our direct competitors don’t have barely half of that.
“That is a culture that I want because smart players off the field are usually smart players on the field.”