It was minutes before the Broyles Award when a very trusted source passed along the news.
"It's a done deal," my source said. "Mike Gundy is the guy." I made the mistake of sharing that news with the Twitter world. It was just the start of what would turn out to be one of the craziest days of my long sportscasting career.
Shocking, but not disappointing.
The first bomb hit the newsroom shortly before 2:00 p.m.: Pat Forde of Yahoo Sports tweeting that Bret Bielema was leaving Wisconsin to coach Arkansas.
This didn't sound right. Why would the coach of the three-time Big 10 champs be leaving one of the top jobs in the Big 10 to take over a Razorback program that is rated by most as the third or fourth best job in the SEC West?
This is the same coach who, less than a week ago, sounded so excited about next season at Wisconsin. This was Bielema after obliterating Nebraska in the Big 10 title game:
"I'm really excited to play this game and play in our bowl game. I have 27 juniors. I believe 12 of them are probably going to be (NFL) draft-worthy. I'm very excited about the chemistry of the group that's going to be coming back next year."
Jeff Long won't have trouble selling Bret Bielema to Hog fans. The days of Arkansas being called a "finesse" team are over. Get ready for a rock'em, sock'em Hog football team. I can see it now. Some of those bulldozers from the Midwest paving the way for some of the top backs in the south. Only time will tell if his brand of football will translate to the SEC, but it's going to be fun to watch. Bielema brings a winning formula to Arkansas.
Shocking and a bitter disappointment.
Less than 30 minutes after going on the air with the Bielema news, another bulletin. Gus Malzahn is leaving Arkansas State to take the head coaching job at Auburn. My initial reaction to this news: anger. How could Gus ditch ASU just 5 days after leading the Red Wolves to their second straight Sun Belt Championship?
I heard the rumors, but I thought Gus was just using Auburn to squeeze a few more dollars out of ASU. I believed all that stuff about a vision for ASU. He was going to make Arkansas State the next Boise State; a top 25 team; a destination for top prospects in the South. I was all in. I had a front row seat on the Gus Bus.
From the outside looking in, it appeared that ASU gave Gus everything he wanted. A statewide media blitz, a weekly coach's show on Arkansas' top rated TV station, plans for a major facilities upgrade... Howl yes!!! ASU was all in; anything to help Gus. It was game on!!!
I thought Gus was different. A former Arkansas high school coach who was sincerely interested in doing something special in his home state.
I was wrong. After what happened today, I wonder if Gus believed any of that stuff he was feeding a hungry fan base.
ASU officials elected to take the high road today. "Coach Gus Malzahn informed us this afternoon that he would be accepting the head coaching position at Auburn University," ASU Chancellor Dr. Tim Hudson said. "We appreciate his contributions to our conference championship season and wish him well."
The day ended with Malzahn delivering a shot to the gut of diehard supporters like Kobi McKinnon, a former All-Sunbelt linebacker from Junction City. McKinnon has made the drive from Little Rock for every down of the Malzahn era in Jonesboro, from the spring game to the Sun Belt clinching win over Middle Tennessee State.
"I'm just tickled to death," Malzahn said. "It's a true honor for me to be the head coach of the Auburn Tigers. I spent three years here and I can honestly say it's the best three years of my life."
There was barely a mention of his first championship season as a college head coach.
A disappointing end to a bizarre day.
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