Arkansas football will hire Wisconsin’s Bret Bielema as its head coach, Yahoo! Sports is reporting.
Bielema has led the Badgers to three straight Rose Bowls, including the upcoming Jan. 1 matchup with Stanford. He plans to coach in that game, according to ESPN.com:
An official announcement will come Tuesday, according to the Yahoo! Sports report, but Bielema is not expected to be introduced until Wednesday.
The move comes as a shock to many, as Bielema was not known to be on Arkansas’ radar. The Razorbacks reportedly offered LSU coach Les Miles a five-year deal last week, before Miles signed an extension with the Tigers.
Under coach John L. Smith, Arkansas plummeted to a 4-8 record this season after opening the year ranked in the top 10. Smith replaced Bobby Petrino, who was fired in April.
In seven years at Wisconsin, Bielema has posted a 68-24 record and two bowl victories. He was previously an assistant at Wisconsin, Kansas State and Iowa, where he played from 1989-92.
According to the Yahoo! Sports report, escaping the shadow of longtime Wisconsin coach and current athletic director Barry Alvarez was among Bielema’s motives for accepting Arkansas AD Jeff Long’s offer:
Long was less worried about getting someone with Southern ties than he was getting someone with an established winning record.
Although Bielema’s winning percentage of .739 is the highest of any Wisconsin coach since George Little in 1925-26, he struggled to escape the shadow of program architect Alvarez – who remains at the school as its athletic director. Wisconsin’s relatively modest facilities might also have been an issue for Bielema – a problem he will not encounter at Arkansas.