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Bret Bielema fired as Arkansas’ head football coach aft…

Arkansas has fired Bret Bielema after five seasons as its head football coach.

The school announced the decision Friday shortly after a 48-45 loss at home to Missouri, which dropped the Razorbacks to 4-8 on the season and 1-7 in the SEC.

“I was informed coming off the field that I am no longer the coach of Arkansas,” Bielema said at his postgame news conference. “I’ve never been let go in my entire life, so this is a first for me, but I’ve had quite a few coaches that have moved on always kind of say, whether it’s right, wrong or indifferent, you want to leave the place better than when you got here, and I know that’s happened.”

Bielema recorded two seven-win seasons and one eight-win season at Arkansas, but never finished higher than third in the SEC West. He finished 29-34 overall.

The Razorbacks’ seven losses in conference play were tied for their second-most in a season in school history. The most came in 2013, also under Bielema, when the Razorbacks went 0-8 in the SEC.

Julie Cromer Peoples, who was named interim athletic director after Jeff Long was fired last week, issued a statement soon after Friday’s loss, saying in part that the Razorbacks “have not been able to sustain the success on the field that is expected and required at the University of Arkansas” during Bielema’s tenure.

On being told he was fired as he was coming off the field, Bielema said, “Obviously, everybody’s probably like, ‘Woo, they got him right after that [loss],’ but I’d much rather have it this way than think about it.”

Bielema, who came to Arkansas after seven consecutive winning seasons at Wisconsin, became emotional during his news conference when he recounted telling players in the locker room that he had been let go.

“I did get a chance to say goodbye to at least 80 of those players that were in that locker room,” he said. “A lot of emotion running through there, and I think that’s a great indication the imprint you’ve had on their lives.

“I know we wanted more wins. We were 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 [wins] and then seven [wins] and then eight [wins], and then it looked like we could get to 8, 9, 10 [wins], and we didn’t play well down the stretch a year ago.”

Bielema lamented that six of his top 10 players weren’t able to play a “significant time” this season, including veteran quarterback Austin Allen, who missed four games.

“I’m not going to sit here and say that’s an excuse,” he said, “but that’s reality when you have the depth we’ve got.”

Bielema becomes the third SEC head football coach to be fired this season, joining Florida’s Jim McElwain and Tennessee’s Butch Jones. He will be owed $5.9 million with 37 months left on his deal (2020).

“Our goal has been and will always be to compete and win in the SEC and nationally,” Cromer Peoples said. “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.”

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