The Razorback Foundation is purchasing a used 2007 Learjet40 for $4.7 million, replacing the 1988 Beechjet that had been in service since Ken Hatfield was Arkansas’ coach.
Count first-year Arkansas coach Bret Bielema among those happy with the decision after a nerve-wracking experience on the Beechjet last winter.
Bielema spoke about the close call during his appearance at the NWA Touchdown Club on Wednesday morning. He was returning from a recruiting trip with defensive line coach Charlie Partridge and as they were getting closer to their destination, one of the pilots informed him there was a problem.
“He said, ‘There’s a light that came on,’” Bielema said. “As soon as we took off, they hadn’t been able to clear that light. I said, ‘What are you talking about?’ Long story short, he told us we needed to prepare for an emergency landing. Don’t know exactly what’s going to happen. Could be a simple thing. The light malfunctioned. Could be the landing gear doesn’t come down. Really, anything from A to Z.
“I said, ‘Well I know what the hell I want it to be.’”
Bielema said plenty crossed his mind while the jet made its way to the ground. One of them was whether he should call his wife, Jen. But he decided not to worry her.
Eventually, the Beechjet landed without issue.
“Reality check came around the corner, when you came around and all of a sudden there were four people on the plane and there were four ambulances and four fire trucks,” Bielema said. “I’ve never been more damn happy to be on the ground.”
Bielema didn’t waste much time suggesting the need for a newer jet. The Beechjet was needed service at one point last winter and was potentially heading for engine overhaul. So Bielema said Tuesday it was “time to get into the year 2000.”
Bielema — who said he didn’t have a jet while at Wisconsin — has used them frequently since being hired for recruiting trips, speaking engagements around the state and other appearances. The Razorback Foundation, the Arkansas athletic department and the university also will use the new Learjet.
“Nobody is driving around a 1988 Buick,” Bielema said. “I know that.”
2. Hug The Heat
Temperatures are projected to reach the upper-90s for Saturday’s game against Louisiana-Lafayette, which will kick off at 3 p.m. It is expected to be one of the hottest days of what has been a relatively mild summer.
But Bielema said the Razorbacks prepared for the heat all summer even if the temperatures didn’t cooperate. Players wore stocking caps and sweaters during the workouts when it didn’t get as hot as expected. Arkansas also tried to pick out the hottest surface for practices to simulate the heat.
“The one thing we can’t do is control anything about the weather,” Bielema said during the SEC Teleconference on Wednesday morning. “We wrap our arms around it, hug it up, love it up and make the best of the situation.”
Linebacker Jarrett Lake said Arkansas’ practice work this week has helped the Razorbacks prepare for the heat expected to greet them on game day as well.
“I think we handled it very well (Wednesday),” Lake said. “Even coach saw that. We were out there flying around, a lot of energy. We understood that if there was ever a day to take advantage of the practice and the heat, (Wednesday) was that day.”
3. Hines Named Starter
Arkansas defensive coordinator Chris Ash said sophomore Will Hines will start Saturday’s game at cornerback. Hines had been competing with redshirt freshman Jared Collins for the starting job opposite Tevin Mitchel since spring practice.
“I just kept working hard,” Hines said after Wednesday’s practice. “JC was working hard too. He should get some playing time. It’s just great to start still.”
Hines started nine games as a freshman last season, but lost the position in the spring to Collins. The cornerback said minor injuries slowed him down during spring drills, but stayed motivated to regain the starting spot in preseason camp.
“It was a good thing,” Hines said. “It drove me in the summer to work harder. It drove me in the fall to work harder also. It all worked out.”
4. Extra Points
Bielema said injured WR D’Arthur Cowan is back to catching passes after undergoing surgery for a broken bone in his foot last week. Bielema said the sophomore may be back in four weeks, which is ahead of the original timeline of 6 to 8 weeks. … Bielema expects Arkansas TE Hunter Henry to get plenty of playing time in the opener against Louisiana-Lafayette. In fact, he predicted Henry would earn the most playing time of any Arkansas’ freshman Saturday. … DB Alex Brignoni is scheduled to undergo surgery next week for what Bielema called a “lingering issue.” Bielema didn’t elaborate on Brignoni’s injury, but it is believed to be his back. The Fayetteville native will redshirt. … Bielema said freshman Austin Allen is the No. 3 QB heading into the opener. But he said the Razorbacks prefer to redshirt Allen, who is behind Brandon Allen and AJ Derby on the depth chart.