Bret Bielema backs off remarks regarding Florida, Ole Miss
GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) Arkansas coach Bret Bielema did a little backtracking on national signing day.
And he ended up making two phone calls that had nothing to do with his recruiting class.
Bielema called Mississippi coach Hugh Freeze and Florida's Jim McElwain to explain what he meant Wednesday when he said on ESPN2 that ''Florida (is) kind of the new Ole Miss. They're doing some things recruiting that kind of shocks you a little bit.''
The Rebels have been notified by the NCAA of rules violations involving the football, women's basketball and track and field programs. Some of the allegations regarding the football program date back to previous coach Houston Nutt, but others involve Freeze's tenure.
His comments didn't sit well with McElwain.
''You got to get a kick out of it a little bit because obviously this guy doesn't know who the heck I am,'' McElwain said. ''I sure as heck don't know who he is. I'm not sure we really ran into him on the recruiting trail, but you know I know what I'm all about. I know what the University of Florida is all about, and I think if you were to poll anybody in college football, I think that they'd know that Mac does it right. I have no idea what this guy was talking about to be honest.''
Bielema later clarified his remarks, which came after highly regarded receiver Tyrie Cleveland, of Houston, picked Florida over Arkansas, Houston and TCU.
''I said something earlier that came across in the wrong way, I guess,'' Bielema said. ''I was paying a compliment to Florida. We've seen them kind of pop up everywhere. Before my last couple years here, really had only competed against Florida in Georgia and Florida itself a lot, because I love to recruit Florida.
''Well, this last week we were competing against them on a wide receiver in Texas, a running back, a player in Louisiana and a player in North Dakota. And I've never seen that before; that's all I was making reference to. It's kind of like last week, we stumbled across an offensive lineman in Illinois and I really liked him and started to proceed with him and found out he - before I got anything going - had had committed to Ole Miss. And I told my staff, `Ole Miss, they're everywhere.'
''That's kind of the comment we make. It wasn't in reference to anything other than that. I mean that wholeheartedly and honestly, and when I said that earlier, I was paying a compliment to Florida. I've called (McElwain) and told him that as well as Hugh, and that was received well. So, I'll put that little nugget to bed.''
Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley also weighed in to defend McElwain.
''Obviously Bret clarified his remarks as he should have,'' Foley said in a statement. ''We know what Coach Mac stands for and what our standards are here at the University of Florida.''
AP college football website: www.collegefootball.ap.org