FAYETTEVILLE — Defensive coordinator Chris Ash was the first assistant hired by new Arkansas coach Bret Bielema last week.
He could be the first assistant to leave Bielema’s Arkansas staff as well.
A report in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel late Friday night cited two college football sources as saying Ash was considering applying for the head coaching job at Wisconsin, which has been open since Bielema left for Arkansas.
Ash, who signed an agreement with Arkansas that will pay him $550,000 annually through June 30, 2015, has been with the Badgers for the past three seasons and has been the program’s co-defensive coordinator for two seasons. Bielema announced last week Ash would remain with the Badgers until after the Rose Bowl.
The Wisconsin State Journal also reported that Texas State coach Dan McCarney, who was Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez’s first defensive coordinator with the Badgers in 2003, was promoting Ash as a potential candidate for the position. Ash worked for McCarney at Iowa State earlier in his career.
Ash’s letter-of-agreement with Arkansas, which was signed last Tuesday and released by the Razorbacks two days later, includes a buyout. The letter stipulates Ash would have to pay liquidated damages — an amount that would began at $100,000 and be prorated over the term of the agreement — if he chose to terminate it “for convenience at any time during the term of the agreement.”
It isn’t expected to be a problem if Ash earned the Wisconsin job. The move wouldn’t be unusual for the Badgers, either, considering Bielema was promoted from defensive coordinator to head coach after Alvarez moved into his athletic director role after the 2005 season.
It also wouldn’t be the first time an Arkansas defensive coordinator has left the Razorbacks without coaching a game. It also happened in 2008, when veteran assistant Ellis Johnson left Bobby Petrino’s staff shortly after being named defensive coordinator and accepted the same position at South Carolina. Petrino then hired Willy Robinson, who coordinated the Arkansas defense for four seasons.
— Robbie Neiswanger • Arkansas News Bureau