FAYETTEVILLE —Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long has his man.
Bret Bielema is moving from Wisconsin to the Razorbacks.
The 42-year-old was the surprise choice as the Razorbacks’ head coach on Tuesday. The news was first reported by Pat Forde of Yahoo! Sports. Bielema will be introduced during a press conference on campus at 4 p.m. Wednesday.
“I am very humbled and honored to become the head coach of the Arkansas Razorbacks,” Bielema said in a news release. “During my conversation with Jeff 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 is 68-24 in seven seasons at Wisconsin, leading the Badgers to bowl games each year. Wisconsin is 8-5 this season, but won the Big Ten championship — and advanced to the Rose Bowl — for the third straight year after beating Nebraska last Saturday. It's not known if Bielema will lead his team during the Rose Bowl next month.
Bielema has been with the Wisconsin program since 2004, when he began a two-year stint as defensive coordinator under former coach Barry Alvarez. An Illinois native, Bielema also has coaching experience at Iowa and Kansas State. He was a defensive lineman at Iowa.
Bielema's Wisconsin contract paid him more than $2.6 million per year, which is the 18th-highest total among college football coaches according to USA Today.
A source told the Arkansas News Bureau Bielema will receive a multi-year contract that pays him $3.2 million annually at Arkansas.
Bielema replaces John L. Smith as Arkansas’ coach. Smith led the program during the 2012 season after Bobby Petrino was fired last April.
The hire ends Long’s eight-month process of finding Arkansas’ next coach.
"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,” Long said in a news release.
“Coach Bielema has led his team to a historic run of championships while seeing a record number of student-athletes recognized for academic achievement. Throughout his career, he has demonstrated a commitment to competing for a national championship with a program known for discipline, honesty and integrity. His tough, aggressive style of play has been successful and will be appealing to student-athletes and Razorback fans. He not only shares the vision and values for the future of Arkansas football, he embraces them.”