New dad an old pro in front of microphone
HOOVER, Ala. — He was not predictable.
Bret Bielema made only two comments about being a new dad. Most new dads can’t keep their mouths shut after the birth of a child, especially the first, but the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville head coach was mostly all business as he kicked off SEC football media days.
It wasn’t until the media started asking questions that the subject of fatherhood came up. Bielema and his wife, Jen, had their first child, Briella Nichole, early Saturday morning.
First, drawing off his 2014 comment that beating Texas was an almost erotic experience, he was asked how he would feel about beating Texas A&M for the first time.
“I know everyone is looking for a quote, but I don’t think I can get much better than that one,” Bielema said. “That was before I had a child.”
Then he was asked directly about being a new dad.
“I’m 48 hours into this baby,” he said. “I can’t say I’m well-versed.”
Those questions occurred in what is called the main media room, which is primarily for print publications. TV and radio folks can attend, but this year they aren’t allowed to ask questions during that session because they have their own time with the coaches and players.
Bielema was mostly on point, although a little of the old nose guard came out in him during his segment with the TV people when he was asked if he felt any extra pressure going into this season. He fired back in an instant: “No, do you?”
No one, including Bielema, was happy with the way the season ended when the Razorbacks blew big halftime leads in losses to Missouri and Virginia Tech.
That may have made some fans unhappy, but there certainly hasn’t been any serious talk of Bielema being on a hot seat. Dennis Dodd of CBSsports.com recently rated every Division I head coach in relation to job security on a scale of 0-5, with 0 being the best. Dodd gave Bielema a 2.
Part of that may be because of Bielema’s tendency to be so honest and to address concerns.
When asked about those season-ending losses, he admitted it made him look at his coaching staff. He didn’t point fingers, but defensive coordinator Robb Smith is now at Minnesota and defensive line coach Rory Segrest’s contract was not renewed.
Then he looked at the players, which led to the decision that with so much talent at linebacker, the Razorbacks would switch to a 3-4 defensive scheme.
Monday was the type of media session Bielema always handles well, as did player representatives quarterback Austin Allen, center Frank Ragnow and defensive back Kevin Richardson.
Allen, who has let his hair grow — “The longest it has ever been by a long shot,” he said — and looks like he could be the favorite on The Bachelorette, was totally at ease and proudly wore a lapel button the SEC gave him for already graduating college.
Ragnow talked about how the team was like a family and you take care of family. He also said last year’s sack total, which took a toll on Allen, was unacceptable.
Richardson marveled at working his way from walkon to speaking at media days.
Everyone was relaxed and comfortable.
Bielema even asked our man Tom Murphy where he got his shirt and later asked Bob Holt why he didn’t ask a question. Holt, who has covered this event for 26 years, is known for his diligence as a reporter, and it is believed that was the first session he attended when he didn’t have a question.
Bielema and Co. kicked off SEC football media days, and he was not like a new dad but a veteran coach who knows the ropes.