LITTLE ROCK — Crafted by a Razorback donor, the well thought-out and respectful communique reached Chris Wyrick hours before Bret Bielema’s first news conference as Arkansas football coach.
Shocked by the hiring of Bielema, the man expressed his unhappiness.
On the way home from Bielema’s 4 p.m. newser, the executive director of the Razorback Foundation received a follow-up e-mail from the letter writer.
Forget about the previous note, the man told Wyrick. He had seen the news conference and he was sold on Bielema.
One email to athletic director Jeff Long was more succinct: "Ok, I am eating crow … excellent hire."
Bielema willingly shared moments that shaped his life, patiently answered questions without coachspeak and cited personal examples to explain some whys, all with unrehearsed sincerity.
There is a country song in his account of his angst at Iowa after Hayden Fry stepped down, his mother calling about his future, new coach Kirk Ferentz bypassing his office time after time, the 10 p.m. suggestion they meet the next day, and his can’t-wait response.
You can’t make that stuff up. Songwriters who tell the best stories played the honky-tonks, lived the heartache and sat in Miami pouring blended whiskey down while the guy who ran the bar watched "Ironsides" on TV.
Raised in Illinois, Bielema comes across as one of us. During a brief tour of the UA campus and Fayetteville, wife Jen was delighted to see a Chick-fil-A, both she and her husband acknowledged a Waffle House on Dickson Street, and she was enamored with the Christmas lights in the downtown area.
Review of Bielema’s emotional roller coaster on Tuesday helps to appreciate him making certain others were on board for a 6 a.m. working meeting on Wednesday:
• Bielema said yes to Long that morning in New York and then said goodbye to Barry Alvarez, the man who gave him his first chance to be a head coach.
• On a private plane to Wisconsin, he signed the contract, committing to leave his home of eight years.
• In Madison, he addressed his players before speaking to anyone else. He told the players he loved them and pointed out there were two doors out of the meeting room.
• On a radio program, He said, "I said, ‘If you want to say goodbye to me, I’d love to shake your hand and say goodbye. If you want to punch me in the head and not talk to me, walk out the back door."
They all came forward.
• After the 6 p.m. meeting, there was the flight to Fayetteville, followed by a pre-dawn start to his first work day.
We’re talking about a farm-bred work ethic and a man who put in six months in the development office at Iowa because there wasn’t money in the football budget.
I applaud his effort to answer multiple questions, and then circle back to the reporter to address anything he might have missed.
Maybe it’s Bielema’s marketing degree, but I anticipate fresh-turned phrases instead of the cliches provided by most coaches. For example, on Wednesday, he talked about timely use of his only visit to close on a recruit, saying " … when I decide to cash my coin …"
At Razorback Club meetings, he will be a smash. Already, I bet representatives from the 20-plus clubs have contacted Sean Rochelle at the Foundation to confirm appearances by Bielema. Those in charge of the menu should heed some inside information and have good sushi available.
At those meetings, Woo Pig Sooie is a staple.The first time around on Wednesday, Bielema was a bit unsure about the distinctive cheer and admitted it was his "first public Pig Sooie."
From age 4 to 18, he said, it was routine, but, "my only partners were pigs."
"It’s something I can improve on, I guarantee it," he said.
Double down on that.
Harry King is sports columnist for Stephens Media’s Arkansas News Bureau. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.