As late as yesterday, the buzz was that Boise State's Chris Petersen was Arkansas's top choice. Anybody that follows college football knows that Petersen is not going anywhere. Every year Petersen is somebody's top choice and every year he comes back to Boise. Another name that was tied to the job was Oklahoma State's Mike Gundy. One thing is for sure, Wisconsin's Bret Bielema's name didn't seem to be attached to the job.
So what happened today? Bielema was named the latest Arkansas head coach in what quite honestly was and is a shocking hire. Bielema is a Big Ten guy. He played nose guard at Iowa before moving on to coach at Iowa and then at Wisconsin. His only non-Big Ten gig before Arkansas was a two year stop at Kansas State as defensive coordinator. Bielema spent two years as DC at Wisconsin before spending seven seasons as head coach.
As head coach at Wisconsin, Bielema won double digit games in four of seven seasons and has led the Badgers to three straight Rose Bowl appearances. Prior to this seasons 8-5 record, the Badgers compiled a record of 32-8 over the previous three years.
The biggest reason that this is a head scratcher is the previous stance Bielema had taken against the SEC. He had a bit of a hissy fit over Urban Meyer's recruiting tactics and even stated "We at the Big Ten don’t want to be like the SEC—in any way, shape or form." I guess money talks.
I see this as a lateral move for Bielema. He moves from an upper tier Big Ten school in which the Badgers job could be considered as high as the third best in the conference to a job that is probably the seventh or eighth best in the SEC. Bielema will go from three straight Rose Bowl trips to playing third (or fourth) fiddle to Alabama and LSU in their half of the conference.
For Arkansas, this hire makes sense in that they went with a defensive guy who has a history of a run based offense. This is more in-line with Bama and LSU than what they were running and they figured that if they couldn't beat them, they might as well join them.
As far as the hire goes, it's definitely an upgrade over John L Smith. Other than that, honestly I'm a bit under whelmed other than the shock of the hire. This could be a good hire for the Hogs or it could be a complete mismatch once Bielema really gets into the recruiting battles and the rivalries. Quite honestly, the Big Ten has been a bit sleepy of late (prior to the arrival of Urban Meyer) and Bielema will go from a relatively stable position to the SEC where every coach is on the hot seat every season. Good luck and welcome to the SEC, even if you didn't want to be like us.