Bret Bielema leaving for Arkansas, dealing a major blow to Wisconsin and Big Ten

When reports surfaced last week that Les Miles and Arkansas were flirting with each other, which ended up with Miles getting a raise from LSU, the money figure the Razorbacks were rumored to be tossing around made almost every coach in the nation a candidate for that job.

Bret Bielema's name never really came up in connection with the Arkansas job (which is surprising, because SEC coaching search rumors usually include every good coach in college football). Bielema had a great job at Wisconsin. He finished up his third straight Big Ten championship on Saturday night.

Now, the Big Ten has to look at itself in the mirror. The coach of the three-time defending Big Ten champs just left for a team that just finished sixth in the SEC West, and probably isn't a top-five job in the SEC.

Yahoo! columnist Pat Forde was the first to report Bielema to Arkansas, and while a substantial raise had to be involved, it shows the current power of SEC football. Arkansas is coming off a 4-8 season, although it's not unfair to blame most of that on the Bobby Petrino offseason fiasco, and has never won an SEC championship. Bielema said this offseason, when referring to recruiting, "We at the Big Ten don't want to be like the SEC - in any way, shape or form." And now he's leaving the Big Ten for a middle-of-the-road job in that conference. But, maybe this is a sign that almost any job in the SEC is better than a great job in the Big Ten.

Wisconsin has to be reeling a bit at this shocking move. The Badgers are sure to look at former offensive coordinator Paul Chryst, who just completed his first season as Pitt's head coach (and that would be a cruel blow to Pitt if he leaves, given the Panthers' recent turnover at coach). Dave Doeren is a former defensive coordinator at Wisconsin, and it will be interesting if the Badgers make a phone call to him less than a week after he left Northern Illinois to coach at N.C. State. Cincinnati's Butch Jones has been searching for a new job (even if he's laughably scolding the media for asking about it), and his interest in Colorado might come to a quick halt if Wisconsin comes calling.

No matter what happens with the Wisconsin job, this is a pretty embarrassing blow to the school. It might be even more embarrassing to the Big Ten.

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