FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. -- Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema has agreed to become the new coach at Arkansas, taking over a program that stumbled from scandal into an awful season that had begun with hopes of challenging for a national championship.
Bielema has agreed to a deal between 5-7 years with the Razorbacks, according to a person familiar with the situation, which was first reported by Yahoo! Sports. The person, who spoke only on condition of anonymity because the school had not announced the hire, said a news conference was planned for Wednesday.
The move was the second stunning hire at Arkansas, which brought in John L. Smith after firing Bobby Petrino this year after he hired his mistress to work in the football department. Arkansas went 4-8 this season and athletic director Jeff Long announced after the season that Smith would not return.
Bielema is in his seventh season as Barry Alvarez's hand-picked successor at Wisconsin. He's 68-24 with the Badgers, with four double-digit win seasons, and he coached Wisconsin to a 17-14 win over Arkansas in his first season at the Capital One Bowl.
"He's the guy Jeff was after all along," the person said of Long. "It's hard to get these coaches to sit still."
The Badgers were down a bit this season, losing five close games. But they won the Big Ten championship game on Saturday in a 70-31 romp over Nebraska to secure their third straight trip to the Rose Bowl. They will play Stanford on Jan. 1.
The 42-year-old Bielema was the defensive coordinator at Wisconsin for two years before being promoted to head coach in 2006. He played for Iowa and started his coaching career there as an assistant under Hayden Fry and later Kirk Ferentz.
Bielema takes over an Arkansas program still reeling following the April scandal.
The Razorbacks had improved their win total in four straight seasons under Petrino, including a 21-5 mark in 2010-11, and finished last season ranked No. 5. They had talked openly in the spring about competing for the school's first SEC championship and perhaps a national championship.
Then came the April 1 motorcycle accident that led to Petrino's downfall. The former Atlanta Falcons' coach initially lied about being alone during the wreck, though the married father of four later admitted to riding with his mistress -- a former Arkansas volleyball player he had hired to work in the athletic department.
Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press