May 27, 2014
Auburn's Gus Malzahn, left, got the best of Arkansas' Bret Bielema last season
By Charles Goldberg
DESTIN, Fla. -- Bret Bielema still wants to take it slow and easy, but says he has no ill will toward Gus Malzahn, whose lickety-split offense is the antithesis of his vision of football.
The two men on the opposite side of how offenses should be allowed to be run met again at the SEC spring meetings Tuesday, some seven months after Auburn's Malzahn gave Arkansas' Bielema what-for in a 35-17 loss in Fayetteville last season in a game in which the Tigers attempted only nine passes.
The two will face each other again in the season-opener in Auburn on Aug. 30.
That's why we care.
Bielema was the first football coach to meet with the media at these meetings. His message has not changed from last year. He says fast-paced offenses should be slowed in the interest of player safety. He has campaigned for a 10-second rule that would force teams to wait, a bit, before the ball can be snapped. Florida's Will Muschamp, a defensive guy, echoed those sentiments Tuesday. But Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze said let's play fast, as did Texas A&M's Kevin Sumlin.
Malzahn will address the media Wednesday. Promise. He'll want to go fast.
Last year's media-fueled dust-up between the slow-it-down Bielema and the speed-it-up Malzahn made spring meeting headlines, and continued into the season.
Bielema says the disagreements were overblown. He did say, however, that Malzahn didn't invent the fast-paced offensive style in Arkansas high school circles, though history says he certainly changed the state's philosophy.
Still, Bielema said he and Malzahn talked after last year's game with "just kind had a mutual respect of, 'I like how you do your business.'" The disagreements, he said, were "probably played up a little bit more than it needed to be.
"I was kind of shocked at how much camaraderie there is in the SEC versus what people from the outside world probably think."
Bielema even went as far to say, "I love up-tempo offenses. I love going against them. I love competing against them. I respect coaches that believe in that system because it so much different than mine.
"I don't have agendas. I have one agenda: Player safety.
"I've brought it up as much as I can bring it up."
He'll have a chance to consider such things in the season-opener in Jordan-Hare.
"That let us focus everything we can (on Auburn), a team that played in the national championship game and could have won it. Tremendous football team. This allows us to guide in on it."
But Bielema said it's nothing personal.
"As much as you guys write about something … I think our guys are fired up to play Auburn. They don’t need me or Gus involved. There are so many kids who play on both teams, friends and there are a couple coaches on his staff with ties to Arkansas. It don’t think it has anything to do with who the head coach is as much as people thing. It’s more of Auburn and Arkansas should be a big game."
Bielema, in his first year at Arkansas last season, walked into a state where Malzahn is considered one of the most innovative high school coaches because of his offense.
"They may think he invented it there, but it was going on in a lot of other places," Bielema said.
Bielema has campaigned for the 10-second rule to slow offenses, though, at the SEC meetings, "I didn't see it on our agenda. I just go by what our agenda is.
"I think the hot topics for us now are things that are out of coaches' hands: It's about the autonomy, it's about we put the eight-game, nine-game thing to rest for hopefully a couple of years. The things that are pressing to me, there is new legislation out there that allows for the first time in the history of college football for student-athletes to be paid. Every other sport -- I used to go crazy -- allows you to employ your student-athletes. Football has never done it. When that got passed a year ago, I thought, 'wow!' The precedence of what that can mean is mind-boggling for me, and how we're going to handle the training table, and how we're going to handle the autonomy part of what they're talking about could be very impactful."
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine