FAYETTEVILLE — There was a good chance for some fireworks leading up to Saturday’s Arkansas-Auburn game because of the tension between first-year coaches Bret Bielema and Gus Malzahn.
Bielema didn’t waste any time igniting them Monday.
The first-year coach said the Razorbacks informed the Southeastern Conference about a discrepancy between television footage of Auburn’s win at Florida Atlantic and the video sent by the Tigers. Bielema said the discrepancy came with what he described as a “swinging gate” formation, which Auburn uses on extra points.
“There are just some clips that haven’t - shall we say - the TV copy doesn’t match the film copy,” Bielema said. “And it’s something we have kind of been aware of now for the last week and half in getting our preparation. So we can use other film and stuff like that to make sure we are getting the full picture.”
Bielema brought up the video issue without being prompted Saturday, saying he believed it would “get a little bit blown out of proportion.” He saw the formation while watching the game on television, but it was not part of the video sent by the Tigers as part of the SEC’s rules concerning video exchange between teams.
“So if I hadn’t watched the TV copy, or if our guys hadn’t had the time to go back and review, we would have never known that to happen,” Bielema said.
An SEC spokesperson said the conference was aware of Bielema’s complaint Monday, but “consistent with other discussions between coaches and league office personnel, we won’t comment on the situation.”
Bielema did and may have violated an SEC rule. SEC bylaws indicate if any team believes a video exchange violation has occurred “it should be reported immediately to the SEC supervisor of officials and not be discussed in the media.”
“I know Gus stands for everything that’s right and (has) great faith in doing things right,” Bielema said. “So I’m sure it’s just a glitch they’ll get to the bottom of.”
Bielema’s unprompted revelation simply adds another chapter to the public feud that goes back to SEC Media Days. The coaches’ philosophical differences were on display when they addressed the media during the three-day event.
Malzahn — when asked about comments that up-tempo offenses were creating player safety concerns — said his first thought was that the idea was a joke.
But Bielema, who has been vocal in his beliefs about player safety, fired back by saying he wasn’t being a “comedian.” Bielema also said during his stint at SEC Media Days that the Razorbacks would play “normal American football” under his watch.
Bielema — whose team has lost five straight and has not been outscored 104-7 in the past two games — hasn’t been shy about making Arkansas’ plans known.
He used his Twitter account to link to a story from Oct. 2010 that suggested spread offenses are to blame for bad offensive line play in the NFL. Bielema said it had nothing to do with Auburn and was a “recruiting-based thing.” Bielema did not mention prospects by name, but junior college offensive tackle Jermaine Eluemunor changed his verbal commitment from Arkansas to Texas A&M on Monday.
“If we were playing us this week, I would have tweeted it. It was more recruiting-driven,” Bielema said. “I can assure you that has nothing to do with Auburn.”
Malzahn’s offense isn’t the first hurry-up, no-huddle the Razorbacks have prepared for this season. Texas A&M beat Arkansas 45-33 to open SEC play and early-season opponents like Louisiana-Lafayette and Southern Miss have run up-tempo attacks.
But Bielema and Malzahn, who was inducted into the Arkansas High School Hall of Fame earlier this year, have clashed. Malzahn was not available for comment Monday and holds his weekly news conference today.
“You know I really don’t know Gus,” Bielema said when asked about their feud. “I mean, obviously, I know the history. I might have shaken his hand on two different occasions. Never had a conversation with him. I know everybody kind of plays that stuff up and now with the whole thing film, too, it’s going to get a little bit blown out of proportion, too. But we’ll let the league office handle that. So I think the biggest thing for us is just know it’s always about the players.”