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Bielema heads to Arkansas

Marques Eversoll, Sports Writer
December 12, 2012
Filed under Sports

Bret Bielema had just led the Wisconsin Badgers to their third straight Rose Bowl Dec. 1. Little did the Badgers know, it would be  the last game of Bielema’s career at Wisconsin.

“I just felt it was time for me to try and spread my wings and fly a little bit further,” Bielema said.

Three days after defeating Nebraska in the Big Ten Championship Game, Bielema left Wisconsin to become the next head coach at the University of Arkansas.

Before coming to Wisconsin as defensive coordinator in 2004, Bielema held the same position at Kansas State University. After one season, head coach Barry Alvarez tabbed Bielema his successor after the 2005 season.

Bielema spent seven seasons as the head coach in Madison, coaching the Badgers to a 68-24 record. Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long hopes that same type of success will continue for Bielema with the Razorbacks.

“His tough, aggressive style of play has been successful and will be appealing to student-athletes and Razorback fans,” Long said. “He not only shares the vision and values for the future of Arkansas football, he embraces them.”

Bielema replaces John L. Smith as head coach at Arkansas. Smith replaced Bobby Patrino after he was fired April 10.

With Bielema’s departure, the Badgers will be led by former head coach Barry Alvarez when the team plays Stanford in the 99th Rose Bowl Jan. 1.

Alvarez served as the head coach at Wisconsin from 1990-2005. Over that 16-year span, Alvarez went 118-73-4 and built Wisconsin to a top-notch football school.

Bielema’s move to Arkansas came as a surprise to most, considering he signed an extension through 2016 this past January. He’s expected to earn $3.2 million coaching the Razorbacks.

Alvarez is now conducting a coaching search — the Badgers’ first since 1990. And the decision as to who will be the next man to lead the football program will belong to Alvarez.

“I won’t use a search committee. Most search committees use me,” Alvarez said. “I get calls from coaches. They call other athletic directors. Their athletic directors call me about coaches … I won’t pay a search firm. I think that’s what they pay me for.”

When news of Bielema’s departure broke, former Badgers offensive coordinator Paul Chryst was thought to be a potential candidate for the job. Chryst just finished his first season as the head coach at Pittsburgh, and he is expected to remain with the Panthers next season.

“I think he should be committed to Pitt,” Alvarez said. “It wouldn’t be right for him to leave after one year. I wouldn’t feel right, and I don’t think it would be appropriate.”

Several others rumored to be candidates for the job include Boise State head coach Chris Petersen, University of Miami Fla. head coach Al Golden, Seattle Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell and Jacksonville Jaguars defensive coordinator Mel Tucker.

Petersen has a career coaching record of 83-8 over the past seven seasons. He’s guided the Boise State Broncos to victories in two BCS Bowls. Petersen’s name has been floated around as a possibility for numerous head coaching vacancies.

Golden served as the head coach at Temple University before taking the same job at the University of Miami. He’s led the Hurricanes to a 13-11 record over the past two seasons.

Bevell, a former quarterback, and Tucker, a former defensive back, both played for Alvarez at Wisconsin. Bevell has never been a head coach before, but Tucker was the interim head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars for five games after Jack Del Rio was fired.