Wednesday, December 5, 2012
Assistant pay a key factor for Bielema
By Brian Bennett
The biggest question regarding Bret Bielema's move from Wisconsin to Arkansas has been a simple one: Why?
Why would Bielema leave what looked like a great situation with the Badgers for a mid-tier SEC program? That question grew louder when it was revealed that Bielema would be making only $600,000 more per year with the Razorbacks, a figure that Wisconsin could have easily matched.
But Bielema made it clear in his introductory Arkansas news conference that pay for his assistant coaches was a major factor in his decision to leave.
"When I began to have more and more success at Wisconsin, I stayed but a lot of my coaches left," he said. "I just wasn't able to compensate them in the way other coaches were. I know I'm hiring the right guys, because everybody keeps taking them from me."
Bielema lost six assistants last year, and he noted that three of them went from salaries around $225,000 per year to over $400,000 annually. He said that hours after the Badgers won the Big Ten title game last Saturday, three of his assistants told him they'd been contacted by other schools and were offered significant raises. He said he wouldn't have been able to match those offers.
"Wisconsin isn't wired to do that at this point," he said. "With what I wanted to accomplish, I needed to have that ability to do that. I've found that here at Arkansas."
Was Bielema also looking to escape Barry Alvarez's shadow? He joked that Wisconsin might finally win a Rose Bowl if Alvarez coached this year's team in Pasadena and noted how he'd been reminded by everybody that Alvarez had won three Rose Bowls but he was 0-2. He said he wanted to come to a place "where I could give them something they've never had."
"We just won three [Big Ten titles] in a row, and that's something you can't put a price tag on," he said. "By that same account, it's been done. At Arkansas, it's never been done."
Bielema said he was "chasing a dream" by coming to Arkansas and that "I just felt it was time for me to spread my wings and fly a little bit further."
And as for his comments last offseason that the Big Ten didn't want to be anything like the SEC? Bielema said those were taken out of context.
"Those quotes really weren't at the root of what it was," he said. "Nobody will be a stronger supporter of the SEC going forward than myself."