DUMAS — Arkansas football coach Bret Bielema’s first time speaking at the Southeast Arkansas Delta Razorback Club didn’t disappoint.
Bielema, who’ll be heading into his second season in Fayetteville, spent about a half-hour talking to and answering questions in front of a nearly packed Dumas Community Center on Thursday night.
“It’s great to be here in Dumas,” Bielema said after being introduced. “This is my first time here.
“I grew up in a town of about 2,200, so you guys got me beat by double.”
The Razorbacks finished last season with a 3-9 overall record, including a winless 0-8 mark in Southeastern Conference play. Bielema mentioned that last year’s team had just seven of 22 starters from the state of Arkansas.
He compared that to the 14 (1995), 13 (2002) and 14 (2006) on the Razorbacks three SEC Championship Game participating teams.
“What it tells me,” Bielema said, “is that when Arkansas is well-represented at Arkansas, Arkansas does very, very well.
“So it’s been a mission statement of mine ever since I’ve been here. Through two recruiting classes there’s only been one player who’s really left the state that we truly wanted.”
After the meeting, Bielema said he isn’t sure if these speaking engagements around the state will help recruiting 18-year-olds, but “it sure works on 25- to 75-year-olds.”
The 44-year-old head coach encouraged those in attendance to give a message to in-state players the Razorbacks are recruiting.
“Anything you can do to let them know,” Bielema said, “if they come to Arkansas, they will forever be remembered for being from Arkansas themselves.
“If they decide to leave the state, know that they will forever be gone from the state of Arkansas and not welcomed back.”
That last line was just one of Bielema’s many quips that drew applause from the crowd.
When talking about the Razorbacks having the toughest schedule in the country for the second straight year, Bielema said, “I love our A.D. to death, Jeff Long, but he did not bring that up during the negotiation process.”
Talking about ambidextrous punter Sam Irwin-Hill, Bielema said, “If he could ever kick two balls with both legs at the same time, we’d have a hell of thing going on. Haven’t worked that out with the NCAA yet.”
Discussing uniforms, specifically the wearing of grey, Bielema said, “If we win, usually everyone likes the s—- out of everything.”
The former Wisconsin coach wasn’t the only one to toss out a snappy one-liner on Thursday night.
Delta Razorback Club president Ted Thompson addressed the crowd to open the meeting and noted that Bielema’s wife Jen had not made the trip.
“It’s a great crowd, one of our bigger ones,” he said. “I told them you were bringing your wife.
“It worked pretty well, huh?”
Jen didn’t make the trip, but Arkansas’ new recruiting coordinator E.K. Franks did.
“Officially, whenever we’ve been together,” Bielema said of Franks, “we have never not won at least 10 games or more.
“So that’s really the reason I’ve brought him here.”
Before Thursday’s program started, Bielema added his signature to the Delta Razorback Club’s banner filled with past guests’ signatures.
“I got a little reluctant when they asked me to sign this board behind me,” he said with a laugh. “I’m here because some of these names aren’t here.”
Bielema said he enjoyed the trip to Dumas and hoped to return to sign the banner “several more times.”
“Not surprisingly, they’re absolutely great people,” Bielema said of the experience. “They love their Razorbacks.
“They always come to Fayetteville, so it’s nice to get to come and say hi to them here.”