Bielema Commends Long In Hand-Written Letter


FAYETTEVILLE — New Arkansas coach Bret Bielema sent Jeff Long a hand-written letter in September, calling his decision to fire Bobby Petrino the “right call.”

The letter, which Long first revealed during Bielema’s introductory press conference last Wednesday, was obtained through a Freedom of Information request Monday.

Long said the letter, which came several after Petrino was fired for lying about his affair with a football department employee, made an impression.

There is no date on the letter, but Bielema wrote it was “long past due.”

“… As I watched your press conference this past spring I wanted to reach out and say how much I respected your actions but more important your words,” Bielema wrote. “As a head coach I know that my comments are looked at in every way possible. Here at UW I have a great AD because he is a man of his word and asks the same for all of us. Best wishes moving forward and stay strong. It was the right call.”

Bielema wrapped up his seven-year tenure at Wisconsin by guiding the Badgers to three straight Big Ten titles. He agreed to a six-year contract worth $3.2 million at Arkansas, replacing John L. Smith as the Razorbacks’ coach. Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez said he was surprised by the decision, learning only after Bielema had accepted the job his coach was leaving for Arkansas.

Bielema was asked about the letter during his appearance on the “Jim Rome Show” last Friday and said he wasn’t lobbying for another job. He said it’s “commonplace” for him to drop someone a note and believes in “the power of the pen.”

“I saw Jeff Long get up in front of a roomful of reporters and make a difficult decision when he made the decision to move on without Coach Petrino,” Bielema said. “And the emotion he showed, showed me a person who cared about his program and alls I did was reached out to him and said it’s great to see these things in the world of college football. Wish him nothing but the greatness amount of success in the moves that he makes afterward and that was it.”

Long and Bielema met during an awards ceremony at the end of the 2005 season, when he was Pittsburgh’s athletic director. Long was impressed by the young Wisconsin assistant and kept tabs on his career. The note only added to his feelings.

“That impacted me,” Long said. “I only got a few from coaches around the country.”

The letter made it clear Bielema kept Long in mind as well.

Arkansas contacted Bielema after Wisconsin beat Nebraska in the Big Ten championship game on Dec. 1. They met in New York City on Monday night and again Tuesday morning before agreeing to terms.

“P.S. One thing I have learned through my time here at UW is that today’s society wants to win them all, but as Coaches and Administrators we need to balance the Big Picture for all our student athletes!” Bielema wrote in closing his letter to Long.

 

Jeff,

Just wanted to say that this note is long past due. As I watched your press conference this past spring I wanted to reach out and say how much I respected your actions but more important your words. As a head coach I know that my comments are looked at in every way possible. Here at UW I have a great AD because he is a man of his word and asks the same for all of us. Best wishes moving forward and stay strong. It was the right call!

Best wishes,

Bret

P.S. One thing I have learned through my time here at UW is that today’s society wants to win them all, but as Coaches and Administrators we need to balance the Big Picture for all our student athletes!