Category Archives: Arkansas Is Kind Of A Big Deal

Next time, they’ll do better.

One positive development from player compensation becoming a reality is that I doubt we’ll see the days of allowing a coach who went 29-34 overall in five seasons at Arkansas, 11-29 in the SEC during his tenure to walk away with an $11.935 million buyout again.

Which is a good thing, considering how boneheaded both sides were about Bert’s hire in the first place.

Since getting fired, Bielema has thought a lot about what worked so well at Wisconsin and what didn’t work at Arkansas. The biggest difference between the two, he believes, was how well he understood the Badgers’ program before he took over as the head coach after spending two years as Barry Alvarez’s defensive coordinator. “I want to go into a situation where you know everything that’s going on,” Bielema said. “I didn’t have to worry about uncovering land mines halfway into the job.”

Bielema estimates that he’d spent about 24 hours in Arkansas in his entire life before taking the Razorbacks job. At Wisconsin, he knew exactly what the program’s strengths and deficiencies were. Plus, Alvarez had provided a spectacular blueprint for success. (A blueprint current Badgers coach Paul Chryst has followed quite well.) At Arkansas, Bielema had to learn all that on the job. The fallout from Bobby Petrino’s firing and a disastrous season with John L. Smith as the interim coach necessitated an overhaul, but if you examine Bielema’s record, he actually came through that part O.K. The 2015 season, when the Razorbacks went 8–5 overall and 5–3 in the SEC, seemed to indicate a turning of the corner.

But Bielema admits he didn’t initially realize how deep a team needed to be on both lines of scrimmage to succeed in the SEC West.

Might have been nice to know that before you jumped jobs.  And to think that many people believed Jeff Long was one of the most competent ADs in the business.

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One little mistake

It appears that Bert’s buyout is going to be ginormous because somebody didn’t pay attention to the contract draft.

Bielema’s original contract in 2012 with UA listed a chart with buyout amounts and included language that the figures in the chart should be plugged into a formula. The contract extension in 2015 laid out a new chart with higher figures but maintained that “all other text, terms and conditions … shall remain the same and shall not be modified in any way by this First Amendment.”

The formula says to take the amount listed as the guaranty payment identified in the chart and to divide that by the number of months in the term of employment. The formula then says to take that amount and multiply it by the number of months remaining on the contract.

Under that formula, the Democrat-Gazette took the $15.4 million and divided it by 97 — the span of Bielema’s employment from Dec. 4, 2012, through the end of his most recent contract, Dec. 31, 2020. The newspaper then took that figure and multiplied by 37 — a rough figure that included the month of December 2017 and the remaining three years of Bielema’s contract. It totaled $5.87 million.

Bielema’s deal with the foundation includes the same chart as his contract extension but does not refer to the formula included in the original contract.  [Emphasis added.]

That’s almost a $10 million oversight.

I keep telling you these people aren’t that sharp.  But they care about football!

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If you have to ask, you don’t want to know.

For some reason, Bert doesn’t want folks to know what this kind of year is worth when you get fired:

Bret Bielema’s time as Arkansas’ coach came to an end after a 4-8 season, including a 1-7 mark in SEC play and a 3-4 record in home games. The Razorbacks lost a school-record five games by more than 20 points.

It sounds like things are still unresolved (“As of Wednesday, Bielema and the Razorback Foundation continued to negotiate a release agreement that would finalize several unresolved issues, including his buyout amount, officials said.”), so maybe this is simply the case where everyone involved is afraid of the public outcry before a final deal is negotiated.

Or maybe the arrangement is so complicated, nobody can figure out what the hell is going on.

Bielema’s deal with the foundation, called a “personal services and guaranty agreement,” was referred to in the section of his university employment contract that explained what the athletic program would owe him if it fired him.

His amended employment contract with the university includes a chart listing buyout amounts, which appears alongside language saying the chart’s numbers are only part of a formula to determine the actual severance pay. It also says the buyout is dependent upon his Razorback Foundation agreement and any amendments to it.

The agreement set Bielema’s buyout at more than $11 million, according to a source close to the program. The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in October reported the buyout as $5.9 million, based on a legal analysis of Bielema’s contract with the university.

UA is one of six public universities under the University of Arkansas System umbrella. The UA campus, the system’s largest, is in Fayetteville, while the system’s administrative offices are in Little Rock.

The system also includes an Office of General Counsel, led by a head attorney in Little Rock. The office has other associate general counsels who are spread out among the system’s campuses.

The Democrat-Gazette on Dec. 6 filed an open-records request with the university seeking the agreement, but the document was found within the system’s records, Rushing said. A UA System spokesman said Wednesday night that the record was found in the Office of General Counsel.

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette previously requested “controlling documents related to a buyout” from the university and the Razorback Foundation on Oct. 13 and from the system on Oct. 19. The foundation ignored the request, and the university and the system did not provide it.

Asked why UA did not have a copy of the document if it is considered a personnel record, Rushing said an employee’s right to an attorney general review includes “other records pertaining to personnel,” not just records in someone’s personnel file.

What is it about treating coaches’ contracts like they’re state secrets, anyway?

(h/t)

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Whither the Gus Bus?

One puzzle about a rumor making the rounds is why Gus Malzahn would consider leaving Auburn for Arkansas.  I know he’s from there, so there’s a little momma factor in play, but Arkansas is a much tougher job than Auburn is.  Sure, Alabama is Alabama, but as this year proved again, when Malzahn has a quarterback who fits his system, he can go toe-to-toe with Saban.

So what’s the deal, then?  Stupid me… when in doubt, what’s always the deal?

And, yes, all those are just backdrop issues to the larger anvil lingering over what should be a sun-kissed weekend for Auburn – a contract showdown. Arkansas is so eager to throw money at Auburn coach Gus Malzahn that they are holding up their entire search just for the opportunity. One source with knowledge of Arkansas’ thinking said the school is “ready to back up the Brinks truck” to lure Malzahn away from Auburn. Arkansas athletics has financial backing of the families around Tyson Foods and Walmart who’d like nothing better for their native son to return home.

Malzahn’s contract hasn’t been significantly adjusted – other than a year added on – since the eve of the SEC championship in 2013.

Days after Tennessee threw truly stupid money at Mike Gundy, it would be foolish to assume Arkansas, with those resources, couldn’t behave similarly.  Add to that a rudderless athletic department at Auburn with Jacobs’ imminent departure as well as the school’s well-earned “what have you done for us lately?” reputation which is something Malzahn recognizes from his own hiring and I can’t entirely discount the possibility.

I don’t know that any uncertainty over their future will have an impact Saturday night, but it won’t bother me if it does.

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#Karma rears its ugly head.

The game might have been over for 60 seconds before the announcement came.  Quick and cold.

The deck is cleared for the triumphant return of Gus, right?

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Filed under Arkansas Is Kind Of A Big Deal

Money for nothing

Jeebus.  Jeff Long, Arkansas’ former athletic director who’s got the school on the hook for something like a $15 million buyout for a football coach whose won-loss record is significantly underwater, has himself got a $4.625 million buyout.  $4.625 million!

I’m in the wrong profession.

Keep in mind, too, that there’s a decent chance the folks who ousted Long after giving him that deal will dump Bert and look for a replacement without hiring a new AD first.  Christ, every agent in America’s got to be lining up for some of that sweet action.  As the old joke goes, I’d call them morons, except that would be an insult to morons everywhere.

Too bad there’s no money for student-athletes’ compensation, although we should consider that Jeff Long’s name doesn’t appear on the back of a jersey.

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Another genius shown the door

Say goodbye to Bert’s boss.

Jeff Long will not return as the Arkansas athletics director, sources told FootballScoop Wednesday. Sources told FootballScoop the announcement is set for today. Tyler Thomason of KARK-TV in Little Rock first reported the news.

Long’s contract was set to expire on June 30. The Arkansas board of directors held a lengthy meeting last week in which no action was taken on Long or Bret Bielema’s respective employment statuses.

I doubt that’s good news for Bielema.  If so, this has the potential of being a real shit show in terms of find a new head coach.

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