Arkansas announces hiring of Wisconsin’s Bielema

The Sports Xchange

December 04, 2012 at 5:37 pm.

(Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports)

The University of Arkansas has hired Wisconsin’s Bret Bielema to be its football coach, the school announced Tuesday night.

Bielema had a 68-24 record in seven years coaching Wisconsin and has led the Badgers to three consecutive Rose Bowl appearances. They earned another trip to Pasadena with a win over Nebraska in the Big Ten Championship Game on Saturday.

“Bret Bielema is an exceptional leader of young men and an outstanding football coach who has proven his program is centered on establishing an unshakable foundation that emphasizes the development of each student-athlete as an individual,” Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long said in statement. “Coach Bielema has led his team to a historic run of championships while seeing a record number of student-athletes recognized for academic achievement.”

Arkansas is struggling after the school fired Bobby Petrino in April amid a scandal, and the Razorbacks stumbled to a 4-8 record under John L. Smith, who was going through a personal bankruptcy that involved tens of millions of dollars.

“I am very humbled and honored to become the head coach of the Arkansas Razorbacks,” Bielema said in a statement. “During my conversation with Jeff (Long) he described the characteristics for the perfect fit to lead this program. It was evident we share the same mission, principles and goals.

“The infrastructure in place at Arkansas shows the commitment from the administration to accomplish our goals together and I am excited to begin to lead this group of student-athletes. This program will represent the state of Arkansas in a way Razorback fans everywhere will be proud of.”

Bielema, 42, had been coach at Wisconsin since 2006. Details of his new deal were not unavailable. Bielema reportedly wants to coach Wisconsin against Stanford in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1, but it’s unclear if he will be allowed to do that.

“I was very surprised when Bret told me he was taking the offer from Arkansas,” said Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez, the school’s previous football coach. “He did a great job for us during his seven years as head coach, both on the field and off. I want to thank him for his work and wish him the best at Arkansas.

That leaves Alvarez the job of filling a position before his team heads to the Rose Bowl.

“I have a responsibility to our student-athletes, our football family and our fans, one that I take very seriously,” he said. “It is my responsibility to ensure that the football program continues at a high level, and I have already started the process of trying to find a new head coach.”