The annual SEC coaches' "car wash" at ESPN headquarters closed with a bang—or "splash," if you will.
Never at a loss for words, Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema took time out of his busy day making the Bristol rounds to take some not-so-thinly veiled shots at some of his fellow coaches in the SEC—Alabama head coach Nick Saban, the Crimson Tide program and offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin, in particular.
When asked about Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby's comment that "cheating pays," Bielema took an unsolicited (and quite clever) shot at Kiffin's time as the head coach of the Tennessee Volunteers, via Chris Low of ESPN.com:
Bielema on cheating: "It's not like it was when Lane basically said, 'I'm gonna do some things, gonna get caught, but it's worth exposure."— Chris Low (@ClowESPN) July 22, 2014
Not to be outdone, he went after Saban's entire program later while in a round-table discussion with ESPN's Joe Tessitore, Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin and Tennessee head coach Butch Jones.
When asked about the summer dead period, Bielema conveniently mentioned that Alabama got a waiver to hold a camp during the dead period, via ESPN.com's Alex Scarborough:
Bielema on the 2-week dead period on @ESPNU: "Alabama got a way where they could have a camp, but everyone else had to abide by the rules."— Alex Scarborough (@AlexS_ESPN) July 22, 2014
Bielema didn't seem to mind. In fact, he owned up to the shots on the way back to Fayetteville.
Should Bielema be criticized?
Not at all.
It goes back to his first point about Kiffin—it's all about making a splash.
If he feels slighted by Alabama holding a camp when he didn't (or couldn't), what better place is there to let it be known than on a college round table with fellow coaches in his conference at the headquarters of the Worldwide Leader?
Bielema gets it, even if it may not appear so on the surface. His program is out of the national (and even regional) conversation, thanks to the John L. Smith debacle and the first 0-8 SEC season in program history last year—his first at the helm.
Now, people are talking about him and Arkansas even if it's not for the right reasons. He comes off as a guy who isn't going to back down from the bully even when the bully has won the fight consistently and decisively.
Is that going to resonate with recruits?
Right now, not really. Arkansas is firmly entrenched in the cellar and doesn't appear to be getting out anytime soon. If that changes, Bielema's attitude when times were tough won't be forgotten.
Is Bielema throwing haymakers at Saban and Kiffin?
Nope. They're more like jabs. Effective, but not intended to be knockout blows. More like the foundation for what's coming in the later rounds.
Bielema had better hope he doesn't repeat the 0-8 performance from his inaugural season in the SEC because if he does, 2015 might get interesting, and he could lose via TKO before even getting to those later rounds.
Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report. Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats are courtesy of CFBStats.com, and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports.
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