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Bret Bielema was officially fired as Arkansas’ head coach just minutes after his team lost 48-45 to Missouri.
Arkansas dropped to 4-8 on the season as curious clock management by Bielema and his staff helped ensure that Missouri would be in prime position for a game-winning field goal with five seconds left.
It’s not a surprise that Bielema was fired from his job as the team’s coach. The man who hired him, Jeff Long, was relieved of his duties as athletic director last week. And with an 11-28 record in SEC games entering Friday, Bielema didn’t have much goodwill among Arkansas’ fanbase.
“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,” interim athletic director Julie Cromer Peoples said in a statement. “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.”
Bielema said he was told of his firing leaving the field.
But dismissing the coach now is a bit complicated. Arkansas is going to be entering a coaching search without a permanent athletic director. Athletic directors typically like to hire their own coaches.
And the Razorbacks are entering a sellers’ market when it comes to coaching services. The Razorbacks are the fourth SEC team to be looking for a new coach before the 2018 season and that doesn’t count Texas A&M, which is reportedly set to fire Kevin Sumlin sometime soon.
After Arkansas tied the game at 45-45 with a field goal in the fourth quarter on Friday, Missouri embarked on what would be the Tigers’ game-winning drive. With 1:25 left and the Tigers at the Arkansas 12, Mizzou committed a holding penalty.
The penalty happened on first down. The clock stops inside of two minutes for accepted offensive penalties. Arkansas had two timeouts.
Not wanting Missouri to repeat first down, Bielema declined the penalty and took a timeout. Had he accepted the penalty, Missouri would have been at the Arkansas 22 and had first down. The Hogs would have still had two timeouts. Given that Missouri was playing for a game-winning field goal, making that kick as difficult as possible seems imperative. Therefore, Arkansas should have accepted the penalty.
Instead, Missouri stayed at the Arkansas 12 and Arkansas had just one timeout. Plays later, Missouri kicker Tucker McCann drilled a game-winning 19-yard field goal.
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