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Bret Bielema out as Razorbacks head football coach

Bret Bielema is out as the Arkansas Razorback's head football coach Bret Bielema, sources tell KATV. (KATV photo)

Bret Bielema has been dismissed as the Arkansas Razorbacks' head football, sources tell KATV. The move comes after Arkansas lost to Missouri Friday, finishing 4-8 this season (1-7 SEC), and a little over a week after the school fired Athletics Director Jeff Long.

“Shortly after the completion of today’s game, I met with Coach Bret Bielema and informed him of our decision to move forward with new leadership in the Razorback Football program,” said Interim Athletics Director Julie Cromer Peoples.

“During the course of the past five seasons, we have not been able to sustain the success on the field that is expected and required at the University of Arkansas. There is no question that Coach Bielema has been a valued and respected member of our department and has made a positive impact on the lives of our student-athletes, including supporting them in their pursuit of graduation. We are grateful for his contributions to our program and most importantly his investment in the lives of our student-athletes. We wish him the very best both personally and professionally.

“Our goal has been and will always be to compete and win in the SEC and nationally. I firmly believe that with all that the University of Arkansas has to offer, including our history and tradition, our facilities, our passionate fan base and competing in the nation’s best conference, we will attract the interest of many of the top coaches in the nation.”

The Razorbacks are clearly starting over when it comes to football. When Long was fired on November 15th, Chancellor Joseph Steinmetz said that over the last year, "Jeff has lost the support of many of our fans, alumni, key supporters and members of the university leadership." Julie Cromer Peoples was named interim athletics director. Chancellor Steinmetz said a search committee would be formed to find a new vice chancellor and director of athletics.

Bielema became the Razorbacks' head coach in December, 2012. He went 3-9 (0-8 SEC) in his first season, however he steadily improved over the next two years. The Hogs won seven games in 2014 and eight in 2015, before second half losses to Missouri and Virginia Tech in 2016 resulted in a 7-6 finish.

Arkansas stumbled out of the gate in 2017, falling to TCU, Texas A&M, South Carolina, Alabama, then Auburn and LSU. The Razorbacks were hampered by significant injuries for much of the season, including senior quarterback Austin Allen. But as the losses mounted, so too did pressure from a restless fan base. That angst may have reached a boiling point after the Hogs came close to losing to Coastal Carolina, a 1-8 football team playing its first season at the FBS level. What was expected to be an easy non-conference opponent instead turned into a lackluster, disappointing performance on Homecoming. The Hogs were coming off a 38-37 win at Ole Miss, the largest comeback in school history.

On November 12th, backup quarterback Cole Kelley was arrested and charged with driving while intoxicated. He was indefinitely suspended the next day.

There were plenty of memorable wins during Bret Bielema's time at Arkansas, as well, including a win over Texas in the Texas Bowl following the 2014 season. His best stretch may have been in 2015, when the Hogs beat No. 18 Ole Miss (with the infamous 4th and 25 "Henry Heave" play) then No. 9 LSU. Arkansas won six of seven games that season, including four straight.

Bielema, a three-time Big Ten champion as head coach at Wisconsin, was 29-34 at Arkansas, including 11-29 in the SEC. He replaced John L. Smith, who had coached the Razorbacks after Bobby Petrino's firing eight months earlier.

A nationwide search for Bielema's replacement is expected to begin immediately.

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