Bret Bielema leaving Wisconsin to coach Arkansas Razorbacks

MADISON -- The University of Arkansas has confirmed Wisconsin’s Bret Bielema will be the next head football coach for the Razorbacks. 

The Razorbacks coaching position has only been open for about a week. But sources say Arkansas Athletic Director Jeff Long flew to Madison on Tuesday, December 4th to present a contract to Bielema. The two parties agreed and Bielema will likely be introduced late Tuesday evening.

Bielema was in the home stretch of his seventh season with the Badgers. He's coming off a 70-31 win over Nebraska in front of a national audience that earned Wisconsin its third straight Rose Bowl berth.

Early reports indicate Bielema will be paid $4 million. That's a bump from the $2.5 million he was making in Madison.

Bielema will replace John Smith, who coached one season at Arkansas. Smith will remain a consultant for the team until the end of his contract early next year.

The new coach takes over a Razorbacks team that put up a disappointing 4-8 record this season after the best two-season stretch in school history.

Whether a fan of Bielema or a critic, many fans agreed he did it for the money. It's a move many didn't see coming -- especially days after earning a third Rose Bowl appearance.

As Gary Anders was hanging up his last shipment of Badgers sweatshirts on Tuesday, December 4th at the Green and Gold Zone in Milwaukee, he heard the news about Bielema. 

"What would he want to go there for? You're looking at LSU and Alabama every year, Florida, Georgia, Auburn, South Carolina -- I mean it's murderers row," Anders said.

It's a move that doesn't make sense to some.

"Obviously they were going to have to hit some sort of monetary threshold that they obviously did," Anders said.

The news was also the topic on sports radio shows across Wisconsin on Tuesday. The phone lines lit up during the Homer and Thunder Show on ESPN 540

"If I was Bret, I would've gone. It seems like half of the state doesn't respect him. I'm not the biggest Bielema fan," one Badgers fan said.

The Badgers all time sack leader Tarek Saleh called in to the show.

"Maybe Bret needed a change. Maybe he felt like he's done all he could here," Saleh said.

While trying to make sense of the unexpected coaching change, Saleh wished Bielema well.

"Bret, thanks for all the great years. We wish you the best until we kick your butt when we play you some time down the road," Saleh said.