The documents released as part of a Freedom of Information Act request from KARK's Lauren Trager may ultimately create more questions than answers. The request included email, phone, and texting records of Arkansas Athletic Director Jeff Long from November 19 to December 4. Bielma's hire was announced on December 4.
The email records provide some insight into the other candidates for the head Hog position. In one email, a member of Long's staff lays out a handful of articles about Bret Bielema's work both on and off the field. Similar emails were sent to Long about Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher and TCU coach Gary Patterson.
In an email from an associate athletic director sent to Jeff Long, then-Western Kentucky coach Willie Taggart was presented as a candidate. The email said Taggart had been contacted by the school and was "thrilled" to be considered for the job. Taggart ended up the University of South Florida.
The records also include emails from donors suggesting Butch Davis and Gus Malzahn as candidates.
Records also include emails from the Black Coaches and Administrators (BCA) which suggested a number of qualified candidates including James Franklin, Willie Taggart, Charlie Strong, and Jim Caldwell.
A log of phone calls and text messages don't point directly to any specific candidates. In the hours leading up to the December 4 hire, a number of texts were sent to a phone number with a Fort Worth area-code. In that same time period, calls were placed to cell phones tracking back to Madison, Wisc.; Stillwater, Okla.; Knoxville, Tenn.; and Boulder, Colo.
In an email sent from Chris Wyrick of the Razorback Foundation to Long on November 29, Long's schedule was laid out for Sunday and Monday of the following week. On Sunday, December 2, Long was to fly to the Dallas-Fort Worth area. On Monday, December 3, Long made trips to both Tulsa and New York City. Based on previous reports, we can presume Long's New York trip was a meeting with Bielema. It's unclear who Long met with during his stops in Dallas-Fort Worth and Tulsa.
Additional emails show Long's trip to North Texas included a meeting at a hotel in Fort Worth. His Tulsa trip also included a hotel meeting.
Also released in the FOIA request was a department plan regarding the search process that included qualifications for the job and a timeline of the announcement. In the presentation, Long presented the target date of December 5 to hold a news conference; the deadline was met with the introduction of Brett Bielema as head coach of the Razorbacks.