Asked about how he feels seeing Ohio State and Penn State go through various troubles with the NCAA at a time when other programs around the country were wrestling with some other problems, Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema replied "It's a good day to be a Badger."
Those days, apparently, are over. Bielema has been hired away from Wisconsin to be the head coach of the Arkansas Razorbacks.
As first reported by Pat Forde of Yahoo! Sports and later reported by others, Arkansas is expected to name Bielema as their head coach today, with a more formal announcement possibly coming on Wednesday.
To say this news came out of nowhere is an understatement for sure. It is a solid hire by Arkansas and a crucial blow to Wisconsin.
Wisconsin is coming off their second straight Big Ten Championship game victory, against Nebraska, to clinch a third straight trip to the Rose Bowl, a game Wisconsin has come up short in two straight seasons. Few would argue that Bielema has played a leading role in rejuvenating Wisconsin's football program. Though Wisconsin has a mediocre looking record this season, when they are playing at their best they have proven to be a team to reckon with, certainly within the Big Ten. After seven years at Wisconsin Bielema has put together a record of 68-24, a winning percentage over 70 percent.
Bielema said this summer that he did not want the Big Ten to emulate the recruiting tactics seen in the SEC, so this should be a lot of fun to watch from afar for some of us moving forward. There is no doubt Arkansas is getting a good head coach, who has a winning mentality and should be a good mix to the coaching club in the southeast. But how does he stack up against the minds of Nick Saban, Les Miles, Will Muschamp and Kevin Sumlin, just to name a few? That remains to be seen.
At Arkansas though Bielema will have support to do what he needs to succeed, and with pipelines opened up in the south it should not take too long for Bielema to get Arkansas back on the winning side of the margin.
Bielema will do just fine at Arkansas. The bigger question here is where will Wisconsin go?
Losing a head coach to a middle of the pack SEC West school after three straight Big Ten titles is a tough pill to swallow. If you and I can see that, you know guys like Urban Meyer, Bill O'Brien, Brady Hoke etc. will see it too. Who replaces Bielema will be interesting.
Two names that popped in to my head, purely as a gut reaction to all of this, were Pitt head coach Paul Chryst and Cincinnati head coach Butch Jones. Chryst, of course, is a former assistant of Bielema's who just got started as a head coach in western Pennsylvania. I cannot even begin to imagine the chaos that would result from Pittsburgh losing yet another head coach, but we will have to see if Chryst is even an option. His first year at Pittsburgh was not exactly a stellar season, so who knows.
The interesting name for me, right now, is Jones. At the start of the day Jones was thought to be making a decision to stay at Cincinnati or accept a coaching job at either Colorado or Purdue. My thought was staying put at Cincinnati was probably his best option, until a better position opened up.
You don't need me to tell you, a better position just opened up.
We will see what unfolds from here.