On Friday the California football family celebrated the life of Ted Agu, who recently passed away after collapsing during a conditioning drill. Agu’s death was referenced by Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema when asked about the evidence to support a rule proposal designed to slow down the tempo of the offense in college football. As you may have heard by now, the comment did not exactly go over with much grace. This we expect from Bielema though.
Bielema’s comments were addressed Friday by California Athletics Director Sandy Barbour, who scolded Bielema for taking advantage of a tragedy to further his agenda.
Bielema has since offered an apology for his comments.
“It was brought to my attention that remarks I made yesterday evening while discussing a proposed rule change were unintentionally hurtful,” Bielema’s statement reads. “My comments were intended to bring awareness to player safety and instead they have caused unintended hurt. I would like to extend my deepest condolences and sympathy to the Agu family, Coach Sonny Dykes and to the University of California family.”
Bielema certainly did not mean to offend anybody with his comments referencing Agu’s passing, but sometimes in the heat of a moment a coach can say something without having much of a filter. Bielema has always spoken freely when asked for his opinions. This is just the latest example of it coming back to bite him. The Razorbacks head coach took plenty of heat for his comment, both in our comment section, on Twitter and from multiple reporters and other members of the media. In an interview with Andy Staples of Sports Illustrated, Bielema attempted to explain in more detail what he was trying to say when he brought up the death certificates comment.
“I’m talking about the concussion crisis, sickle cell trait. This one [sickle cell trait] really scares you because you don’t know when it’s coming. The kids have difficulty breathing. They don’t want to come out of practice or the game. All the ones I’ve ever been around, they want to stay in because they don’t want their teammates to think they’re quitting or stopping. What we began to rationalize is that when these players pass when they’re involved in these conditioning drills, they pull themselves out of it or the trainer pulls them out of it because they’re having difficulties. What if you’re in the middle of the third or fourth quarter and you know that the kid standing 15 yards away from you or on the other side of the field has this trait. He’s got this built-in possibility of something happening. Your doctors have told you about it. Your trainers have told you about it. He looks at you through those eyes or maybe the trainer even says, “Hey coach, you need to get him out of there.” And you can’t. You have no timeouts. He’s not going to fake an injury. He’s not going to fall down.”
The defensive substitution rule proposal would prevent an opposing offense from snapping the football for the first ten seconds on the play clock. This allows defenses to substitute players on every play before getting caught in a rushed tempo by the offense. Player safety was one of the primary reasons for the proposal when it was reported, but it is being criticized as an attempt to hurt teams that have found a winning formula with an up-tempo offensive style. It does not seem as though the rule will have enough votes to be passed, but Bielema is going to continue to stand by his opinions anyway.
Whether you agree with him or not, let us just hope Bielema handles arguing his case with some better examples moving forward.