FAYETTEVILLE — Bret Bielema was introduced to the state during a news conference on Wednesday, one day after he was named Arkansas’ new coach.
Two days later, Bielema spent a portion of his morning explaining why he left Wisconsin during national radio show appearances.
Bielema made appearances on high-profile programs like “Mike and Mike In The Morning,” the “Dan Patrick Show,” and the “Jim Rome Show.” The new head Hog reiterated his decision to leave Wisconsin was, in part, to take on a new challenge in the Southeastern Conference after spending much of his career in the Big Ten.
“I love challenges,” Bielema told Dan Patrick. “I think men are defined more by their struggles than they are by their success and I want to go in and find some struggles and define our team and our coaches and have a chance to do it again in another league.
"I’m not one of those guys that wants to sit around and continue to be satisfied. I want to look for the next opportunity.”
Arkansas has agreed to a six-year contract worth $3.2 million annually for Bielema, who already has begun contacting prospects and assembling his coaching staff.
Bielema has said several times salaries for assistant coaches, which were comparatively low at Wisconsin, were another reason for his decision to move to Arkansas. It’s a point he mentioned during his radio show appearances, even telling Patrick the pool for assistants at Arkansas has “almost doubled.”
“It was just at a point where, last year, I lost six coaches,” Bielema said on “Mike and Mike” a couple of hours earlier Friday. “It was an incredible season. Brought in great coaches, great support from the administration, we got ourselves back to the Big Ten Championship Game and won it, put up 70 on Nebraska.
“But I couldn’t go through that again and survive at the way that we had.”
Bielema, meanwhile, was asked about the hiring process during radio interviews Friday. He revealed having conversations with Tennessee about its vacancy earlier in the week. He also explained why Arkansas didn’t contact Wisconsin athletics director Barry Alvarez for permission to speak with the coach this week.
Bielema said the reason was simple: Alvarez, who was a mentor, is a “persuasive” person. So Bielema wanted his plans finalized before meeting with him.
“I did make a decision that, when I heard from Arkansas, they asked to reach out to Coach Alvarez and I said ‘With all due respect, I appreciate what you’re saying, but I want to make sure that I do it myself,” Bielema told Jim Rome.
Rome also asked Bielema about the letter he wrote Arkansas athletics director Jeff Long in September, commending him for his handling of the Bobby Petrino scandal.
Long revealed the letter after Bielema’s time with the media during his introductory press conference Wednesday. So the coach explained it Friday as something he has always done, believing in the “power of the pen” over emails or social media.
Bielema said it wasn’t an attempt to start a conversation about the Arkansas job.
“I saw Jeff Long get up in front of a roomful of reporters and make a difficult decision when he made the decision to move on without Coach Petrino,” Bielema told Jim Rome. “And the emotion he showed, showed me a person who cared about his program and all I did was reached out to him and said it’s great to see these things in the world of college football.
"Wish him nothing but the greatness amount of success in the moves that he makes afterward and that was it.”
Long said the note impressed him. It ultimately proved to be part of a process in which the two parties met Monday night. Bielema accepted the job Tuesday.
He said it was time for the hardest part of the process after that — telling Wisconsin’s players he was moving on. Bielema flew back to Madison, Wis., on Tuesday to inform his team during what he described as a “very emotional” meeting.
Bielema told players he was leaving for a new challenge at Arkansas and gave them two options: Walk out the front door of the team meeting room and shake his head or go out the back if they were too disappointed. Most met with him on the way out.
Bielema believes most understood the opportunity he had with the Razorbacks.
“The world of college football is going to change, big-time in 2014 when you bring in the playoff system,” Bielema told Jim Rome. “There’s no other conference that can show the history that even if you lose a game in the regular season, you don’t make it to the championship game, you’re going to have a chance to be in the top five. And if you’re in the top four, you’ve got your chance to play for a championship.”
Patrick pressed Bielema several times about loyalty in the coaching profession during Friday's 10-minute interview, calling the coach “sort of the sacrificial lamb” on the subject at one point. He even gauged Bielema’s loyalty to the Razorbacks and hoped the coach wouldn’t be rumored for other positions in the near future.
Bielema maintained he’s at Arkansas for the long haul.
“This is not a situation where I’ve tried to parlay it for another opportunity,” Bielema told Patrick. “This is coming to Arkansas. I met with our kids (Wednesday) — unbelievable team reception and the administration and the people itself.
“It’s going to be something that I hope to stay satisfied and stay hungered with and get a chance for us to win for a long, long time.”
BORN: Jan. 13, 1970, Prophetstown, Ill.
COLLEGE: University of Iowa (1989-92), nose guard.
FAMILY: Married Jennifer Hielsberg on March 11, 2012, in Madison, Wis.
COACHING RECORD: 68-24, Wisconsin, seven seasons, 37-19 in Big Ten Conference play.
ARKANSAS CONTRACT: Will play him $3.2 million annually for six years.
CAREER HIGHLIGHTS: Earned seven bowl invitations at Wisconsin, including three straight Rose Bowls (2010-12). Won Big Ten championships in 2010 and 2011, followed by 70-31 upset win against No. 14 Nebraska in the 2012 Big Ten Conference Championship Game. … Promoted to head coach in 2006 after being hired as the Badgers’ defensive coordinator in 2004. … Posted four 10-win seasons at Wisconsin, including 12-1 campaign with the Badgers in inaugural season that culminated with a 17-14 victory against Arkansas in the 2007 Capital One Bowl at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando, Fla. … Became the first Wisconsin coach in school history to win 11 games in a season in 2006 and also just the third coach in NCAA history to win 12 games in his rookie season. … Is the first Big Ten coach to begin his career with 10 straight wins. … Badgers won 17 of first 18 games with Bielema at the helm, the second-best career start in Big Ten history. … Bielema is one of only 12 active head coaches — and 16 overall — to have led a team to at least three BCS bowl games. His 40 wins over the last four seasons also are tied for the most of any four-year stretch in Wisconsin history. … Guided Wisconsin to a 31-18 upset of No. 1 Ohio State on Oct. 16, 2010, in Madison, the first such win against a top-ranked team since 1981.