Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Bret Bielema's Departure Stuns Wisconsin

Shocking news out of Madison Tuesday, as Wisconsin football coach Bret Bielema has decided to head to Arkansas.

Bielema’s agreement with Arkansas came together in less than 24 hours, according to multiple sources.

... Money likely played a role in Bielema’s decision. He reportedly will make $3.2 million from Arkansas and turned down even more, so the money could go to his assistants.

... Having a better chance to win a national title also was a motivating factor for Bielema, Ball said. Arkansas is a member of the Southeastern Conference, which has produced the last six national champions.

Arkansas, which competes in the loaded West Division against the likes of Alabama, LSU and Texas A&M, has yet to win an SEC title since coming over from the former Southwest Conference in 1992, losing all three of its appearances in the league title game.

The Razorbacks are upgrading their infrastructure, with an 80,000-square-foot football operations center currently under construction, and are looking into expanding the 72,000-seat Razorback Stadium.

After going 68-24 in seven seasons at UW, Bielema leaves a hole.

(I've never been Bret Bielema's No. 1 fan, but it's impossible to argue that he wasn't successful at Wisconsin, as evidenced by his teams winning 44 more games than they lost in seven seasons.)

Athletic director Barry Alvarez is now charged with filling that hole. At least temporarily, there's a puncher's chance he'll fill it with Barry Alvarez.

According to a source close to the UW football program, athletic director Barry Alvarez does not plan to allow Bret Bielema to coach the Badgers in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1 against Stanford and may lead the team on the sideline himself.

That source said Alvarez, who was out of town and unavailable for comment, planned to oversee the team while he searches for a replacement for Bielema, who accepted a job Tuesday to coach the University of Arkansas.

Alvarez's last game as coach at UW was the 2006 Capitol One Bowl, a 24-10 victory over Auburn. He led UW to victories in the 1994, 1999 and 2000 Rose Bowls.

In the university's only public comment about Bielema's departure, Alvarez made it a point to say that one of his priorities was making sure the current players, "especially our seniors ... have a tremendous experience in the Rose Bowl."

Certainly, you can infer -- if you're inclined to read between lines and such. It sure seems as if Alvarez is contemplating taking the team to Pasadena himself, and the report linked above from Jeff Potrykus adds more fuel.

As a UW football fan, I'd have to support the endeavor. Perhaps it'd be a trial balloon of sorts for a full-time return. One more run for Alvarez, and the chance to perhaps pick his own successor a second time.

With a 68-24 record and three straight Big Ten titles, I'd say Alvarez did all right with his choice of Bielema.

Stunned by his departure, perhaps the best thing Alvarez can do is let the smoke clear, focus on his current crop of football players having a great time at the Rose Bowl, and make sure he does the right thing for the program's future.

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