Bret Bielema: Lane Kiffin Part Two
Stop me if you've heard this story before, a new coach from outside the South comes to the SEC with a hot blonde wife, a great deal of swagger even if he has no real clue of the region he now inhabits, immediately snags a five star running back in his first month on the job which sends fans into spasms of glee, and then goes after a national championship winning coach while talking to his new fan base at an event he doesn't expect to become immediately public.
Lane Kiffin meet Bret Bielema.
Talking to a Razorback fan group at the Saline County Razorback club Bielema had this to say, "The reason the SEC is talked about all the time is one team, because of their dominance. But I didn't come here to play Alabama. I came here to beat Alabama."
Bielema continued, "You can take Saban's record when he was at Michigan State and when he was a coach in the Big Ten and put it against mine, and he can't compare."
Yes, Bret Bielema said that Nick Saban can't compare to his past coaching record.
I love it.
But does this strike anyone else like what Lane Kiffin did with Urban Meyer?
You'll recall that within a few months of arriving in Knoxville, Kiffin went after Urban Meyer, then a defending national championship winning coach, accusing Meyer of cheating and bragging about stealing away Nu'Keese Richardson, a four-star wide receiver whose biggest play in Knoxville would turn out to be when he was arrested for robbing UT fans at a local gas station while riding around in a Prius in UT football gear. Kiffin took every opportunity to deride Meyer's coaching ability, his recruiting, his status as a big-time coach; by the time Kiffin went on the road at the Swamp for his only head-to-head contest with Meyer, the Vols were a thirty point underdog.
Kiffin avoided humiliation, losing a close game in Gainesville, but the yapping didn't stop, Kiffin continued to talk trash about Urban Meyer up until he left for Los Angeles. Literally as he was getting on a plane for LA, he took a last shot at Meyer.
Now Bielema has done the same, poking at Nick Saban, stating pretty clearly that he's a better coach than Saban was when he arrived in the SEC. The same Saban, mind you, that is 68-7 in his past five seasons at the helm of the Crimson Tide, 39-5 in the SEC.
Bielema didn't stop there, he also said the previous staff had spent a lot of time recruiting "pretty boys," a shot at Bobby Petrino that sounded an awful lot like Kiffin's digs at Phil Fulmer's recruiting.
The problem with all of Kiffin's bluster was that he was a really bad cultural fit. He had no clue what the SEC was all about, and he didn't particularly care. He tossed aside Tennessee's cherished traditions, refused to embrace the record of past success, and attempted to make Tennessee something it wasn't, a trendy USC of the east, Hollywood meets the Smoky Mountains. Kiffin went 7-6 and fled town after a year, pursuing his dream job at USC. The issue wasn't that Kiffin went after Urban Meyer, there's nothing wrong with trying to rattle the cage of your top competition, it was that Kiffin had no real idea what he was getting into when he joined up for the SEC. It wasn't that Lane Kiffin was an ass, it was that Lane Kiffin was an ass who had no idea about SEC football.
My favorite example of this was Kiffin FedExing a package directly to Mike Hamilton during the hiring process. Kiffin never understood how much SEC football mattered, never seemed to grasp how aggressively the media covered every little twist and turn. Lane Kiffin legitimately thought he could fax a package to Tennessee's AD in the middle of a heated head coaching search and that no one would find out. He had no idea what the SEC culture was all about because he'd been in Los Angeles, where USC football is a comparative afterthought on the sports landscape.
I guarantee you that Arkansas football matters a lot more to Arkansans than Wisconsin football does to Wisconsin fans. That's partly because Arkansas fans have nothing else to root for but Arkansas athletics. Wisconsin fans have pro sports, the Packers, the Brewers, even the Bucks to distract them through other seasons. Arkansas, not so much. The entire state is all in on the Razorbacks.
Look back at the quotes from Bielema and strip away the Nick Saban commentary, the part that has gotten most of the attention.
What should be more alarming to Arkansas fans than their head coach going after Saban? (I love Bielema going after Saban. I hope he keeps this part up).
This part of Bielema's comments. "The reason the SEC is talked about all the time is one team, because of their dominance. But I didn't come here to play Alabama. I came here to beat Alabama."
Did Bielema really just imply that the SEC was a one-team league?
Did he forget about the two national titles that Florida won, the national title that Auburn notched or the national title that LSU locked down in the past seven years. Is he aware that Alabama came really damn close to losing each of the last two national titles to LSU, another team in the SEC? Is he aware that if Alabama didn't win three of the past four national titles that another SEC school probably would have won all three titles instead? Does he realize that by the end of the season Texas A&M was better than Alabama last year?
I'm not so sure that he realizes any of this.
Lane Kiffin thought all he needed to do was beat Urban Meyer and now Bret Bielema thinks all he needs to do is beat Nick Saban.
Not hardly, this isn't the Big Ten where there's only one good team a year.
Bielema's at the fifth best progam in the SEC West, he's going to have to fight and claw and scrape for every miniscule advantage he can find. Alabama, LSU, Texas A&M, and Auburn will all have more advantages than he will. They'll probably have better players too.
Does Bielema realize that?
It sure sounds like he doesn't.
Yesterday Bielema took to Twitter to clarify his comments, "Alabama quotes were a joke to a question from a fan at pep rally."
Guess what, Bret, Nick Saban ain't laughing. (This is partly because Nick Saban has not laughed since 1988). And that clearly wasn't a joke. You really believe that the SEC is just famous because of Alabama, which should be terrifying to anyone wearing a Razorback on his head. (Assuming, that is, that anyone wearing a Razorback on his or her head is smart enough to be terrified of anything that's legitimately alarming).
I really like Bret Bielema, because I think he has the potential to be entertaining as hell and he doesn't speak entirely like a boring coach. But suggesting that the SEC is a one-team league sounds an awful lot like the kind of stupid bluster Lane Kiffin spouted at Tennessee.
And everyone hates Lane Kiffin.
Even USC fans.
Don't be Lane Kiffin, part two, Bret, be smarter, funnier, and prove that outkicking your coverage with a wife you met a Vegas blackjack table is something that pays off.
Basically, don't boast about winning games in the Big Ten as if it proves anything at all.
You're in the major leagues now, Bret, stop bragging about how well you performed in Triple A.