Did you read Yahoo’s Dan Wetzel today? In his column, he’s ready to cover the grave of the B1G because Brett Bielema is leaving Wisconsin for that storied football program, the Arkansas Razorbacks. He’ll be slightly less famous than that weird Razorback fan singing love songs to Arkansas in the wee hours from the comfort of her family room.
“He was supposed to be a Big Ten lifer, a quality coach at a quality program helping add depth to a league in desperate need of anything positive,” Wetzel pens, with breathless sycophancy to the SEC. “Instead he becomes a real-time, real-life example of the pecking order of college football.”
Let me get this straight: the Big Ten is dying because one of its coaches—who backed his way into a conference championship this year—is willingly choosing to become the fourth or fifth bridesmaid in the SEC? Mmm-kay. Looks like Wetzel’s man-crush on the SEC is out in the open…and clouding his judgment.
For starters, it isn’t as though Bielema was plucked from obscurity to lead a team with a rich tradition of championship football. Arkansas has exactly one national championship. Until Bobby Petrino took over the program, the previous best season for Arkansas was its 9-3 1998 season (where they lost to Michigan in the Citrus Bowl, FYI). A mid-range program just got a major coup in hiring Bielema, sure. But let’s not treat this like some sort of grand indictment on the Big Ten, because it isn’t.
No one is arguing the Big Ten is a power conference right now. But the Bielema hire is not Bo Schembechler leaving Michigan. It’s not Woody Hayes leaving Ohio State. It’s a good coach going to a so-so program. And let’s not forget the SEC gets a free pass from the sports writers because they’ve got four really good teams—a couple that are legitimate contenders for the national championship these days (and no, I don’t mean Georgia)—and 10 mediocre to lousy teams. That’s an awful lot of fodder in the schedule every year.
Georgia is a perfect example of team that was NOT the third best team in the nation, heading into last week’s SEC Championship game. No way they were better than Oregon or Kansas St. The Bulldogs failed up because there’s an unfair premium placed on the timing of losses in college football. And there’s also an unfair premium on running the table against teams like Kentucky and Tennessee and Vanderbilt, but not Northwestern, Penn State and Purdue.
I’m not arguing there’s no talent in the SEC. I’m arguing they get a free pass more often than other conferences because the myth is greater than the reality. Until Bielema proves he can win at Arkansas, he’ll still be just a bit more famous than the lady who puts Scotch tape on her nose to form a pig snout.