Fans across the country should commend Arkansas Razorback head coach Bret Bielema for the way that he handled the transfer of Brandon Mitchell. Unlike other coaches who value winning football games above everything else, Bielema made it a point to put his student athletes first.
Sadly, not all head coaches act this way. After Wes Lunt chose to leave the program, Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy has effectively blocked him from transferring to any school in the Big 12, SEC or Pac 12. He has also barred Lunt from playing for the Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles or Central Michigan Chippewas.
In other words, Gundy is preventing Lunt from going to any program that might play the Cowboys in the future. While that decision makes sense from a strategic standpoint, it does nothing to help Lunt in future endeavors.
That’s a sharp contrast from how Bielema handled a similar situation with Mitchell. As he does at the conclusion of every spring practice, Bielema met with all of his players to discuss the plans for the upcoming season. Although no one knows what exactly transpired, Mitchell and Bielema reached a decision that it was better for everyone involved if Mitchell continued his career at another school.
Let’s be honest: he didn’t have to do that. In the ultra-competitive environment of the SEC, no one would have blamed Bielema for doing everything in his power to convince Mitchell to stay at UA in a jack-of-all-trades type of role. Regardless of how the Hogs used him, the offense would have been better this fall.
But Bielema knew that Mitchell wouldn’t be happy in that capacity because he’d patiently waited five years for a chance to be the starting quarterback. Rather than do anything to hinder him from going elsewhere to pursue his dream (as most coaches would do) or persuading him to “take one for the team,” Bielema simply supported this decision and wished him well.
This type of behavior is a breath of fresh air. It’s nice to see a high-profile coach like Bielema put interests of one of his student-athletes above his own.
College football needs more people like him.