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November 24, 2017

Bret Bielema

Fayetteville, Arkansas

Missouri - 48, Arkansas - 45

BRET BIELEMA: Happy Thanksgiving to everybody, a day late. Obviously, feel bad for the kids, a hard-fought game. From last Sunday to where we are today, had to flip the script pretty quick, and having some guys that were pretty banged up in the way we played and competed a week ago Saturday and to turn it around and play the way we did today, obviously, just ended up giving up too many plays.

Offense did some really good things, but obviously failure in the second quarter, kind of sailed out a little bit, and then defensively the long ball was probably the breaking point.

We thought our guys competed. From a personal standpoint, we focused on the task at hand. I asked our guys to be the greatest. That's all I wanted them to do. I didn't say win for me or anything else, but just go out and be as good as humanly possible for the seniors to get a trophy.

Give a lot of credit to Missouri. Played a great game and played well down the stretch. Just kind of summarizes the entire year for us, just where we're at moving forward.

Obviously, you guys probably heard the news about me. I was informed coming off the field that I'll no longer be the coach at Arkansas. So from this point forward, I guess the biggest thing I really take from my experience here is I've always kind of heard, and never been let go in my entire life, so this is a first for me.

I've had quite a few coaches that have moved on, and they always kind of say whether it's right, wrong, or different, you want to leave the place better than when you got here. I know that's happened. There's no doubt. I know we want more wins and we all want this. But we're on a steady climb and ran into a speed bump that we were never able to get back out of.

We were on a steady win cycle with three, and then to go to six, and then seven, and then eight. It looked like we could possibly get to eight, nine, ten, and didn't play well down the stretch a year ago. Unfortunately, the things that were brought in front of us this year, I was sitting here watching the Mississippi State-Mississippi game last night, and saw Fitzgerald go down, and really never -- the game was never the same again. Obviously, he was a great player for them.

And I was sitting there as this thing kind of evolved and put together things about why we should stay, why we should be allowed to stay here, and one thing that jumped out, six of our top -- probably six of our top nine, ten players lost not only for the year but significant time. I'm not going to sit here and say that that's an excuse, but it's a reality when you're at the depth that we've got and where we're at.

Brought to my attention that we had the toughest schedule in the SEC conference during my five years of being here. Hey, man, somebody's got to be number one at something. Might as well be us.

The accomplishments we made from that first team meeting to where we are now, can't say enough about the work of our kids, our support people, all the people that made it possible. I have a group of coaches that have absolutely been awesome. The current ones, some of the ones we've had, all the support staff, all the administration. Jeff was awesome. Julie has been awesome. Chancellor Steinmetz has been awesome.

The thing that ends up being disappointing for me, just, I think have like 80% of our roster back offensively, all the yardage we scored, the numbers and points we put up. I think we're in a really good spot. Moving forward, I'll do everything and anything I can to help Arkansas. I'm a bigger fan of Arkansas now than ever. I know that. I'll work with whoever they end up naming. Whoever -- if they want my help, I'll be here tenfold to help them and move forward as long as I'm not working some place else within reason.

Glad I had the chance -- I did like, obviously, everybody's probably like, oh, they got him right after that. But I'd much rather have it this way than think about it. I was going on the road recruiting tomorrow, so that kind of sums that up. I got a chance to say goodbye to at least 80 of those players in that locker room. A lot of emotion running through there, and I think that's a great indication of the trademark or imprint you've had on their lives, and I have enjoyed working with you guys. I mean that with all due respect.

One of the first things I said when I got here is I don't want to make anybody's job harder. That's just not my personality. May not agree with you at times, may have said something that didn't ever get anything out of the ordinary. But I love people that love their job, and I know you guys love your job and you've got jobs to do. So it is what it is. But that's it. Open it up for questions.

Q. Brad, you spoke so positively recently. Did you expect this to happen or were you holding out hope for another year?
BRET BIELEMA: Absolutely. They told me to keep working, keep grinding, keep recruiting. Even when Jeff was in his situation, they told me to keep grinding, keep working. Give a lot of credit to our coaches. Had a huge recruiting meeting, and had a bunch of good recruits in last week. They had a great weekend. I think they saw the opportunity to get out and play, and I think that's why you're in a really good spot moving forward.

I do think that obviously someone will come in with different ideas, thoughts, maybe schemes. But you have a group of players that care, and a bunch of players that have done a lot of really good things off the field. Shoot, we took over this program, and I believe we were at a 918 APR, and I believe we're at a 988. So how close to we get to a thousand? Because I didn't win games, I can brag about my GPA.

But we were on a steady climb, hit that bump and just weren't able to get out of it. There are a lot of other factors that go into it, but they're bigger than that moment right now.

Q. Any regrets coming to Arkansas?
BRET BIELEMA: I get it. I totally get it. Without a doubt, unequivocally, no. When I made the decision to go there were a lot of factors that went into it. But one of the biggest factors was to try to do something that I really wanted to do. A chance to move to a new town with a new bride, and one of the greatest things that's come out of this is I have a beautiful daughter, who, forever will be born in Fayetteville. You know, so I am better today than I was five years ago. I know that.

Now, I had to take some Pepto Bismol along the way and some sleepless nights, and however you want to say it. It's been tough, you know, because we care. I tell our players all the time, man, if you don't care, it doesn't matter. I know they care. I know the heart that they have is there, and it will be there for the next guy.

So, hopefully, I think everybody else will agree to this. I think it's probably why it took so long for them to do what they did, because we've done some really good things. I think that people recognize that and that will never be taken away. I've never done anything in any way to harm this university. Never broken anything -- I told my guys all the time, NCAA rules, I'm just never going to do that. I just always believe in doing things the right way the first time, and this, unfortunately didn't work out. I know my next opportunity, I know the players, the coaches, their next opportunity will be better because of it.

Q. (Inaudible) you turn things around before? What was the difference?
BRET BIELEMA: I think more than anything overwhelmingly the injuries to our very good players. If I had to do it again in my first two or three years, I saw we were putting together stats and showing it to the powers that be, well, I don't know who are all the powers that be, but put together information for Julie and administration and stuff. So during my time here, we're fourth in the SEC in number of players taken in the NFL Draft, fourth. I think that number was 17 or 18, whatever it was.

Five or six of those guys were early entrants. I just foresee, I knew we were recruiting good players, but the only player I had to leave early was JJ Watt, pretty good, right? All the other ones, they've retained and they were forth- and fifth-year players. When I call the seniors up, they have 12 or 13 guys, and not a lot of them are our higher-end players. That's probably my only -- as I look back on it, I would have signed O-linemen and D-linemen in the quality that they have here.

Q. Coach, you were told you were relieved of your duties coming off the field. Did you physically come off the field when you hit the locker room?
BRET BIELEMA: I have a little office over here. So it was private. I've never been let go before.

Q. How long was the conversation?
BRET BIELEMA: Shorter than the one we just had. Julie and I have known each other for a long time, and she's the one that informed me. You know, obviously I know -- I've always said this, when I took over that last job, I had the prerequisite of being there two years before I became head coach. I think when you have transition, it takes a while for the head coach to learn how things work. I was in discovery mode in year two, year three here, still in discovery mode in certain things.

My only wish is I wish the people that ultimately pulled this trigger, I wish I would have known who they were or been around them a little bit. I wish they could see how we work and how we do things, and the emphasis on the entire product that we put out there both on the field and off the field.

Q. Just as I follow-up, I know it's only been half on an hour, but any of your personal representatives gotten in touch or contacted your people? What do you have in mind? What do you want to do?
BRET BIELEMA: I think my wife got some stuffing from Whole Foods, so she knows I like that for Thanksgiving, so there might be a snack tonight.

The biggest thing is I care about my players and my coaches. I'm going to be with my coaches here in a little bit. Try to give them any kind of information I can, of course. I know they'll be in touch with the university here, what their situation and status is.

It's kind of unusual because live recruiting starts Sunday and you have three weeks before national signing day, which a lot of people estimate probably between 80 to 90% of kids will sign in this first signing period just so they're not left dangling in the wind from their respective school. So there is going to be a lot of hustle to get it. I'll encourage especially the Arkansas kid, if they want to be in Arkansas, they should stay with it.

But it depends on what transpires within me, for me and my personal choices. I definitely want to coach again, and I'll be blessed with whatever opportunities. I do know the things that -- I've been a head coach 12 years, went to bowl games 10 out of 12 years. Didn't go this year or my first year either. Won championships, put a lot of players in the NFL. We do it with a great GPA, and my kids -- I know (Indiscernible), spring sold some socks at the bowl game, but our kids aren't bad people, and they're not representing anything but positives for Arkansas. I don't know. We'll wait and see. I've never been in the situation.

Q. Did Julie tell you out there it wasn't her call?
BRET BIELEMA: No, there was a little office over here and she was waiting for me in there. We were in this little makeshift transition during this year, and Julie was the one that informed me.

Q. What's been the most rewarding aspect of your five years here?
BRET BIELEMA: Arkansas. I know that's a broad brush, but it's the people, the community, the care factor. I had about 19 cousins, some cousins that grew up in Little Rock and their kids were here. Last night I got to see them. So to be around that and the relationships I've built in this room, the relationships I've built in the community, it's just there are a lot of positives.

But Arkansas needs to be accentuated, not minimized. I do think that from strictly a head football coach at the university of Arkansas, there are a lot of positives to sell. You've just got to make sure that you understand that to get it done, they've got to go the right way.

They've got to build that roster. I felt like I was always chasing after we kind of hit with some of those guys going out early and key positions. We're paper thin in a couple positions here and there. It just felt like you're really chasing a roster of recruiting issues that never really got on top of it. The classes that remain when I first got here -- shoot, our first class, seven or eight guys that are now playing on Sundays, you know? Those will be fifth-year seniors if we'd done it a little bit different. Obviously, the results would be a little bit different.

Thank you very much. God bless you guys.

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