Bret Bielema Sold on UA's Athletic Facilities

by Chris Bahn  on Monday, Dec. 17, 2012 12:00 am  

University of Arkansas Athletic Director Jeff Long had a number of tools at his disposal as he made his pitch to head coaching candidates earlier this month.

Included in his presentation was an overview of planned facility projects for football and other UA athletic programs. Long had the facility plans available in a variety of formats, but felt most comfortable showing candidates a three-ring binder full of photos.

“We went old school with it,” Long said, noting he could have used an iPad as he offered details of what is coming next in the athletic valley on the UA campus.

Beyond Long’s choice of how to present the projects, there is little, if anything, that could be considered old school about the plans Arkansas has for its athletic facilities. Currently, the Athletic Department is carrying out various stages of a $320 million master plan for new building projects and upgrading existing facilities.

Arkansas’ 80,000-SF football operations center is the closest to becoming a reality, and naturally was the project Long spent the bulk of his time detailing. It is scheduled to open for team use by mid- to late summer of 2013, and the practice field/parking lot component of the $40.31 million project is already in use.

Coach Bret Bielema came away impressed by what he saw of the facility. What the Razorbacks could offer to high school players who were considering Arkansas was a big selling point for his leaving Wisconsin, a place where Bielema had a great deal of success.

Besides upgrading his salary to $3.2 million and getting additional money to build a staff, Bielema will inherit a brand new office, complete with locker, film and athletic training rooms for the Razorbacks. UA officials are also studying the feasibility of an expansion of Reynolds Razorback Stadium that will cost between $75 million and $98 million.

“We’re building a new facility here at Arkansas that is off the charts,” Bielema said during a recent radio appearance. “That is just going to open so many doors in recruiting.”

‘All the Tools’

Football is just one component of the athletic facilities master plan. Long wanted to make sure Bielema saw that there are ample resources for all sports at Arkansas.

While football generated an estimated 64 percent of $99.8 million in athletic revenue for 2011-12, Long has made it a point to invest in other areas. That was part of his pitch to Bielema.

“I think he was honestly impressed with all we have going here and what we have planned for our student athletes,” Long said. “They have wonderful facilities at Wisconsin …. but what we’ve worked hard over the last five years to do is provide the head coach all the tools, all the resources needed to be extremely successful.”



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