Every year it seems like we hear about a story where a coach was informed that he was being fired during a really unfortunate time. There’s Lane Kiffin being fired on the tarmac a few years ago at USC, and I remember a story about a highly successful Division III coach being pulled under the bleachers to be fired during senior day celebrations after their season finale loss.
That brings me to Bret Bielema and Arkansas. Shortly after finishing a 4-8 season with a 45-48 loss to Missouri, Bielema had to have a feeling that rumors swirling of his time being up leading the Razorbacks may be coming to a head.
However, how Bielema learned that he wouldn’t return to lead the program next season, or next week, is a snapshot of how inconsiderate administration can be when delivering bad news.
Bielema: "I was informed coming off the field I would no longer be the coach at Arkansas."
— Brandon Zimmerman (@BZSEC) November 24, 2017
Firing someone like that is the way you fire someone who embarassed your university on national TV, or someone who has you entangled in NCAA sanctions…not someone like Bielema.
I’m not here to say that they should have waited until Monday or tomorrow to deliver the bad news, but as Bielema is hugging his seniors and getting emotional saying his thank you’s to players and staff that have laid it on the line for the program all year surely is not the right time.
You fire a guy walking off the field who disgraced your program.
You don’t do that to a man who did things the right way and for whatever reason it didn’t work out https://t.co/YAujPhwguh
— FootballScoop Staff (@FootballScoop) November 25, 2017
Both fans and decision makers, and even un-objective coaches sometimes, easily get caught up in the numbers, or the records, or lack of progress, and forget that wives, parents, kids, and livelihoods are often being affected here.
Granted, everyone involved is an adult and can handle some bad news, but as Scott pointed out so perfectly getting told you’re getting the axe on the way off the field may be the way you inform some people, but Bielema represented the program with absolute class since arriving with very little, if any, off-field issues.
It’s worth noting here that athletic director Jeff Long ended a decade-long run as the head of the athletic department for about a week now, so that may have something to do with how things were handled. In Long’s absence, associate AD Julie Cromer Peoples was tabbed as interim AD.
Administration looking to move on from their current head coach should take note of this situation, and make future moves accordingly.
Update> Arkansas officials sent us the following note in response to the outcry: “We informed Coach Bielema tonight, so that he could meet with his entire team. It is a holiday weekend and they are all leaving for the game to head home for the weekend. The alternative was the players find out on social media or via group text and don’t get to meet with their HC in person because they are scattered across the state/region.”
Bielema said he would rather be fired this way then have to think about it. pic.twitter.com/UYZE7huyiW
— Bo Mattingly (@SportsTalkwBo) November 25, 2017