Through the first two months of the 2014 season, Arkansas was 4-5 with strong showings against Texas A&M, Alabama and Mississippi State that, close as they were, ended as losses nonetheless. But the Hogs broke through in a big way to close the year, with wins over LSU, Ole Miss and Texas (sandwiched around a 21-14 loss to SEC East champion Missouri) by a combined score of 78-7.
Arkansas ended the year at 7-6, but they were the 7-6 team that no one in college football wanted to play.
In the SEC, that's enough for a contract extension. The Razorbacks announced a new contract extending to 2020 that will average $4.25 million annually.
“Coach Bret Bielema is not only one of the best college football coaches in the nation, he is an outstanding leader,” athletics director Jeff Long said in a statement. “What Coach Bielema and his coaching staff have done for our young men, on and off the field, is something that has dramatically changed the course of our program and most importantly positively impacted the lives of our football student-athletes. He is building a championship program in a way that all Arkansans can be proud of. We look forward to his continued leadership of our football program and the many successes yet to come.”
Bielema, 10-15 in his two seasons in Fayetteville, will earn $4 million in 2015 and see his compensation rise $100,000 annually from there.
Bielema's $4 million 2015 salary will place him just outside the top 10 nationally - but sixth in the SEC West. Nick Saban, Kevin Sumlin and Les Miles earned north of $4 million in 2014, Gus Malzahn and Hugh Freeze received new contracts bumping them above $4 million by this fall, and Dan Mullen ($3 million in 2014, according to USA Today) is working on an extension of his own.
This means one thing: some highly-talented, well-paid coach is going to finish in seventh place in the SEC West nine months from now.