Perhaps you’ve heard this one before. Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots are wrapped up in a wild conspiracy theory. Oh, you have. Good. But this isn’t Spygate or Deflategate. No, this is a whole new conspiracy theory that involves former Patriots assistant Bret Bielema and his former employer, the University of Arkansas.
So how does Bill Belichick fit into all of this? Let’s dive in, shall we?
Bret Bielema received a $12 million buyout after being fired by Arkansas in 2017
After more than 10 years as an assistant at various FBS programs, Bret Bielema became the head coach at the University of Wisconsin in 2006 and led the Badgers to three consecutive Rose Bowl appearances from 2010 to 2012, although he didn’t coach the last one as he’d agreed to become the head coach at the University of Arkansas.
After helping rebuild in his first season in Fayetteville, a season in which the Razorbacks went 3-9 overall and 0-8 in SEC play, Bielema quickly turned things around and led the team to 7-6 record in 2014, including shutout wins over ranked opponents, which earned him a lucrative contract extension through the 2020 season.
However, after two more winning seasons, Arkansas went 4-8 in 2017 and Bret Bielema was fired and received a $12 million buyout. And here’s where Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots come into play.
The Patriots hired him as a consultant to Bill Belichick in 2018
Ahead of the 2018 NFL season, the New England Patriots hired Bret Bielema as a defensive consultant to Bill Belichick and paid him $125,000 for the season, which upset the Razorback Foundation, the main fundraising arm for the University of Arkansas athletics.
Per The Athletic, under the terms of his $12 million buyout, Bielema “was obligated to make reasonable efforts to find employment that would mitigate or offset the amount.” The $125,000 salary he collected from the Patriots was not enough to reduce the buyout and the Foundation, feeling that Bielema had not made a real effort to find a high-paying job, stopped making the payments in January 2019 with about $7 million remaining on the contract.
Naturally, Bret Bielema, who became the Patriots’ defensive line coach in 2019 and is now an outside linebackers coach/senior defensive assistant with the New York Giants, was not happy about this and sued. The Foundation countersued and Bill Belichick has now been subpoenaed as the Foundation believes this is all part of a conspiracy.
The conspiracy theory involving Bill Belichick and Bret Bielema
So here’s what the Razorback Foundation thinks happened. They allege that Bill Belichick, Bret Bielema, and (here’s the key) their shared agent, Neil Cornrich, devised a plan for the Patriots to hire Bielema for the small amount and would employ him until the offset period expired.
However, the Foundation has conceded that Bill Belichick may not have been aware of what was happening. But the six-time Super Bowl-winning coach has still been subpoenaed as the Foundation is hoping they can collect documents from him that would support their claims of fraud against Bielema and Cornrich.
It must be noted that Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots have NOT been named as counter-defendants as the Foundation is focusing more on Bielema and Cornrich. But Belichick was still named in court papers this past Tuesday, again per The Athletic.
“The Foundation expressly pleaded that helping the Patriots hire Bielema for a low salary benefitted both of Cornrich’s clients and therefore benefitted Cornrich. Bielema benefited…and the Patriots (and by extension Belichick) benefited by hiring a coach with years of college head coaching experience and three Rose Bowls for next to no pay.
“The Counter-Defendants fraudulently obtained, with Cornrich’s assistance, buyout payments that Bielema used like ‘unemployment benefits’ to support his affluent lifestyle for more than a year while he built an NFL resume so that he could obtain a high paying NFL position job once the Release Agreement (and his corresponding obligation to offset the Foundation’s buyout payments) expired.”
At the time of this writing, Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots have not yet commented on the situation.