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Bielema appears headed to Arkansas, likely won’t coach Wisconsin in Rose Bowl

By Jeff Potrykus, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel –

MADISON, Wis. — Bret Bielema may have coached his final football game at Wisconsin.

Two sources close to the Wisconsin program confirmed Bielema has agreed to become the next head coach at Arkansas.

“It’s a done deal,” one source said, adding Bielema could be introduced as the Razorbacks coach Tuesday night.

Multiple sources close to the Wisconsin program stressed athletic department officials and members of the team had no inkling Bielema was interested in leaving Madison and were stunned to learn the news Tuesday.

According to a source close to the Wisconsin program, Bielema is expected to sign a contract that will pay him more than $4 million annually at Arkansas.

He is scheduled to make $2.5 million this season at Wisconsin, including a base salary of $400,000.

Bielema did not return messages and Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez, who was out of town, could not be reached for comment.

However, multiple sources confirmed Bielema met Monday night in New York with Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long.

According to a source close to the program, Bielema would like to coach Wisconsin (8-5) in the Rose Bowl Jan. 1 against Stanford (11-2).

One source wasn’t sure if Alvarez would allow that and another suggested it was unlikely Alvarez would want to see Bielema on the sideline in Pasadena knowing he was leaving for Arkansas.

Bielema allowed then-defensive coordinator Dave Doeren to coach Wisconsin against TCU in the 2011 Rose Bowl after Doeren had accepted the head-coaching job at Northern Illinois. Wisconsin lost to TCU, 21-19.

“I wanted to finish the ride,” Doeren said at the time. “I asked him: ‘Is this something we can talk about or is it out of the question?

Bielema made it clear at the time he believed Doeren could handle the job and allowed him to coach the game.

If Alvarez as expected denies Bielema the chance to coach in the Rose Bowl, one candidate to run the team would be defensive line coach Charlie Partridge.

Partridge, who came to Wisconsin in 2008 from Pittsburgh, has the most seniority on the staff and is the associate head coach. He is also co-defensive coordinator.

A source who follows college football closely suggested Wisconsin should approach former offensive coordinator Paul Chryst, who is in his first season as the head coach at Pittsburgh.

Chryst coached tight ends at Wisconsin in 2002, left to join his friend Mike Riley at Oregon State after that season but returned to Wisconsin in 2005 as offensive coordinator.

Chryst, 47, still has family in Wisconsin, including his mother, and maintains a cottage here.

Chryst took three assistants with him to Pitt — Joe Rudolph, Bob Bostad and Dave Huxtable.

Bostad was Wisconsin’s offensive line coach. Rudolph was the tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator.

Huxtable was the team’s linebackers coach.

Bostad took a job with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers before the season started so he wouldn’t appear to be a candidate to return to Wisconsin.

Rudolph, who played at Wisconsin under Alvarez, is close friends with Chryst. He strongly considered staying at Wisconsin after Chryst took the job at Pittsburgh but decided to leave in part because of his relationship with Chryst and Bostad.

Alvarez has acknowledged he regretted allowing Chryst to leave after the 2002 season and has displayed a desire to hire coaches with strong ties to Wisconsin and the state.

Bielema has led Wisconsin to three consecutive Big Ten Conference titles and has posted an overall record of 68-24.

The Razorbacks went 4-8 this season under John L. Smith.

Long has said he wanted to hire a coach with a proven track record. He reportedly tried to lure Les Miles from LSU.

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