Arkansas is coming off a win, but it took a great effort to come back and beat a lackluster Coastal Carolina team, 39-38. This has been how the season has been going for the Razorbacks though. Bret Bielema is trying to work his career record at Arkansas back up to .500. The question going forward though has to be: Is it worth it to keep him as head coach?
It was thought that Bielema had a big buyout that was preventing Arkansas from getting rid of him. Some places said that number was as high as $15 million, but the actual buyout is actually $5.6 million. That is still a lot of money to pay a coach to not do his job and leave, but it is certainly manageable. Now that money isn’t as big of a factor in the decision Bielema’s hot seat has to be getting warmer.
In Bielema’s time in Fayetteville Arkansas has a losing record. He is in his fifth season as the head coach of the Razorbacks and has accrued a 29-31 record. This record is hampered by the 3-9 mark that he had in his first season as the head coach of Arkansas. Since then he has made a bowl game in each season, with his best season being in 2015 with a record of 8-5.
It seems as if the 8-5 mark is the maximum Bielema can do at Arkansas, but he usually finishes with around seven wins after their bowl games. The thought process when bringing Bielema in was that he would at least compete in the SEC West and put the program at an upward trajectory. That hasn’t happened. The overall record is inflated with lackluster non-conference games so in order to fully understand Bielema’s time at Arkansas, a look at his SEC record is needed.
So Bielema can usually do well enough to make a low-end bowl game, but how does he do in the SEC? Through almost five season at Arkansas, Bielema has compiled a 11-26 record. He loses more than double the amount of games he wins. Now the SEC is tough, especially the SEC West, but can anyone survive with a conference record that bad?
That is really poor, but they have only had one season with a winning record in conference play. In 2015 they were 5-3 and otherwise finished with a maximum of three wins in conference. While it is tough playing in the SEC, Bielema wasn’t hired to go 11-26 in conference.
Bielema could’ve kept skating by for a while longer with his seven or so wins a season, but this year has been especially bad. The Razorbacks are 4-5 and will likely not make a bowl game. Three of their four wins came over much inferior competition in: Coastal Carolina, New Mexico State and Florida A&M (FCS). The win total is inflated and won’t get much, if any, better.
The Razorbacks have also only won one SEC game this season which came against Ole Miss. The Rebels have an interim coach and have lost a lot of talent over the past few seasons. Ole Miss didn’t even have their starting quarterback. After winning that game, they barely escaped with the win over Coastal Carolina, resulting in Bielema’s seat to get hotter.
The remaining schedule doesn’t look favorable for Arkansas. They have to play LSU, Mississippi State and Missouri. Arkansas may have a shot to beat Missouri, but even then it may not be enough to save Bielema’s job.
If Arkansas runs the table they can make it to the regular seven win total that Bielema gets to. Unfortunately that isn’t going to happen for the Razorbacks and even if it does it may not be enough. Arkansas will be lucky to win one more game and get to five wins on the season. With four or five wins, a below .500 overall record and a miserable SEC record, Bielema has to go.
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