With Kansas hiring former Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long to the same position this week, one can’t help but wonder if former Razorbacks coach Bret Bielema may have an in at a potential power conference program in need of a coach soon.
It all seems to make too much sense to ignore the possibility that Long would potentially reach out to his former head coaching hire at Arkansas in the event he needs to make a coaching change at Kansas. David Beaty may actually be in a solid position right now despite the last couple of woeful years of Kansas football, but one more poor showing on the field by the Jayhawks could lead to a coaching change faster than may be for the greater good at Kansas. And if Long ends up deciding to move in a different direction, it would not be shocking to learn Bielema might be on the shortlist.
Long hired Bielema away from Wisconsin to come to be the head coach of the Razorbacks after the 2012 season. In five years at Arkansas, Bielema coached the program to a disappointing 29-34 record with a declining win total in each of his final two seasons on the job. Although Arkansas struggled under Bielema, the general consensus appears to suggest Bielema is still a solid head coaching candidate in the right situation. At a program like Kansas, where there is likely nowhere to go but up, why not see what Bielema can do in the Big 12?
The biggest unknown is the motivation Bielema has to jump back into coaching just for the sake of coaching again. Arkansas owes Bielema $320,000 per month until the end of December 2020, with those monthly installments in the $11.9 million buyout kicking off last November. That’s a solid paycheck for not having to recruit and coach. So Bielema can do absolutely nothing until the end of 2020 if he wants. Of course, he has been keeping busy working with the New England Patriots in the offseason at events like the NFL Scouting Combine and representing the AFC champions at pro day events like at Alabama. So he is certainly staying connected and in tune with the game to some degree.
Bielema was coaching from 1994 through 2017. He has won three Big Ten championships with Wisconsin. He may very well be a head coach once again in due time, perhaps even before his buyout expires with Arkansas. Is Kansas the perfect landing spot? Despite the connection with Long, it may not be for Bielema. A return to the Big Ten may be better suited for Bielema with some potential openings coming up in the next coaching carousel cycle.
It’s also worth noting Bielema is enjoying life as a father of a young daughter, and that may not be an experience he wants to get away from so quickly. Only he would know for sure, of course. The point is Bielema has time to weigh his options. Rushing to get him to Kansas is probably a waste of time at the moment, especially if Beaty has anything to say about it.