FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas coach Bret Bielema has developed a reputation for being one of the most outspoken personalities in college football.
But Bielema had an interesting response when asked if his tiff with Auburn coach Gus Malzahn on the topic of no-huddle safety last week was simply part of a plan to generate some attention during the long offseason.
“I don’t think I’m outspoken,” Bielema said. “I really don’t. But I guess I get it.
“I just kind of reacted. I’m a firm believer in what I said and what I believed in.”
Outspoken or not, Bielema did gain attention with his words. He’s not the first coach to suggest no-huddle offenses are unsafe, but has been in the spotlight for much of the past week since his reaction to a question about the topic at SEC Media Days.
Malzahn said he initially thought the notion that no-huddle offenses were unsafe was a “joke.” Bielema — one of the main proponents of rule changes — said a little later he wasn’t joking, delivering a passionate rebuttal to Malzahn.
It became one of the storylines from the three-day event and the no-huddle discussion has continued this week. While there’s no indication rule changes aimed to slow down up-tempo offenses are imminent, Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long said he has been impressed with the way Bielema has stood by his beliefs.
“He’s a coach who understands who he is, understands what he stands for and is extremely consistent about those things,” Long said Thursday.
“You can speak out when you know what you stand for and you’re confident in your convictions and Bret is. He’s been a successful coach, very successful coach. So his word carries weight and I think he has an opportunity here to send a message of player safety and it’s resonating with people.”
Bielema was asked about the topic at seemingly every stop during his run through ESPN’s campus on Tuesday. Coaches from major conferences like the Big 12 were asked about it at other media day events this week, too.
The attention has even resulted in a new nickname, of sorts, for Bielema. ESPN’s Travis Haney said that South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier — long known for his outspoken personality — greeted Bielema by calling him “no no-huddle” Tuesday.
Arkansas defensive line coach Charlie Partridge, who has worked with Bielema for several years, admitted to seeing both sides of the no-huddle debate. He applauds Bielema for his stance, though, and said the coach is never shy about sharing his feelings.
“You know where he stands,” Partridge said. “I don’t think he’s over the top in any way, shape or form but he’s going to let you know how he feels.
“That’s a great thing because there’s no doubt. You’re not wondering how he feels about this or that. He’s going to tell you. That is what it is.”
Bielema shrugged off the attention it has created the past week.
Is he outspoken? The Arkansas coach simply chalked it up to being honest.
“I do speak the truth. I don’t care how it’s perceived,” Bielema said. “Great advice I always learned is if you always tell the truth you don’t have to remember what you said. I really enjoy media day because you can just go in, you can be real and you can talk. I think some people are a little bit uncomfortable maybe because they’re trying to remember what they said in the past or they’re maybe trying to cover up things that they don’t want to talk about.
"It’s a lot easier to go in and be honest and be real.”