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New Arkansas head football coach Bret Bielema. (Associated Press)

New Arkansas head football coach Bret Bielema. (Associated Press)

Gazzolo: Bielema’s Big Ten exit shows SEC influence

Last Modified: Thursday, December 20, 2012 11:40 AM

By Jim Gazzolo / American Press

They take one of your old, you take one of their new.

That’s the SEC way.

One year after watching the Big Ten-plus four grab former Florida head coach Urban Meyer from out of the broadcast booth and onto the Ohio State sidelines, the SEC responded in spades.

Arkansas, a team in need of a complete retooling, yanked one of the Big whatever’s brightest young coaches right out from under his own contract.

Just a few months after proclaiming the Big Ten never wanted to be like the SEC, former Wisconsin head coach turned Razorback skipper Bret Bielema decided he sure wanted to be paid like a Southeastern Conference coach.

So, the man who played for Iowa and kept Wisconsin a factor every year when it came to the Rose Bowl is now seeing visions of Sugar Bowls dancing in his head.

Madness, just plain madness.

Bielema will get plenty of green for apparently seeing the SEC light. More money for the rich. His million dollar buyout at Wisconsin, chump change.

As in anybody who believes these coaches are willing to stand by their contracts are chumps.

Then again, with schools showing coaches the door just two years after winning national champions maybe it is just par for the course.

It sure seems like once again colleges have lost their ways when it comes to the importance of sports. These fine, traditional academic institutions of higher learning have now shown their true colors.

In a world where university presidents protect their own cash cow, football, like never before, they seem unwilling to worry about any of their actions.

No wonder Les Miles decided to at least listen to Arkansas long enough to get a newer, bigger deal out of LSU. That’s how the game is played all over.

Small fish gobble up big fish, big fish gets gobbled up by even bigger fish and the whale comes in to swallow them all whole. When done, the whale just chews up and spits out what he no longer has a need for.

And there is no bigger whale in the world of college football then the SEC.

The Big Ten might have caught itself a whopper in Meyer, but the one that got away is going to hurt as well.

That’s because Bielema seemed to ooze Big Ten. No way he would ever leave.

But this is a league that couldn’t get Miles to come back to his old school, Michigan, twice. That proves once a Michigan man, not always a Michigan man.

Still, not getting Miles in one thing. But losing a young coach who is going to his third straight Rose Bowl, or at least was until the ink dried on his deal with Arkansas, shows you are not in the same class as the SEC no matter what you think.

Maybe, we should have figured that out when we see the Big Ten’s conference champ has five losses and is unranked.

The league might want to worry less about what the SEC is doing and figure out what it should be doing itself.

Losing the likes of Bielema is not the problem. It is not even the cause of the problem. It is simply the effect of the problem.

And the problem is the Big Ten, despite Meyer’s going undefeated for the on-probation Buckeyes, don’t stack up with the SEC. Not in wins, not in talent and not in dollars and cents.

Bielema didn’t follow the yellow brick road to hog heaven, just the scent of money.

At least they don’t raise them dumb in the Big Ten.


Jim Gazzolo is managing sports editor. Email him at

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