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Arkansas pulls off a stunner by hiring Wisconsin's Bret Bielema

By Tom Fornelli | College Football Writer

Well, folks, we have a winner in the Most Shocking Coaching Hire of 2012.

On Tuesday it was announced that Bret Bielema was leaving Wisconsin to take the head coaching position at Arkansas, and to say it caught the college football world off guard would be a bit of an understatement.

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Less than 72 hours before the news broke, Bielema's Wisconsin team was putting up 70 points on Nebraska en route to a third consecutive Big Ten title. Now he's leaving to take a job at a school that hasn't won a conference championship since 1989. And that was in the old Southwest Conference, before Arkansas joined the SEC.

To say this is a major coup for Arkansas would be an understatement. It's also another black eye for a Big Ten conference that's been punched in the face quite a few times lately.

As if beating the Big Ten on the football field routinely hasn't been enough, now a school that isn't even considered a premier destination in the SEC is taking away one of the top coaches in the Big Ten.

Bielema has been at Wisconsin for seven years, and his Badgers teams have gone 68-24 in that span, never finishing worse than 7-6. Suddenly winning Big Ten titles is a stepping stone to getting a job at a middling SEC school.

According to an ESPN report, Bielema has asked to coach Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl. The same report says athletic director Barry Alvarez -- the former longtime Badgers coach -- is considering coaching the team himself vs. Stanford.

What makes this deal even more shocking is that after a recruiting flap with Ohio State's Urban Meyer over the summer, Bielema said the Big Ten doesn't "want to be like the SEC in any way, shape or form."

Apparently, Bielema changed his mind.

As for what this means for Arkansas, the Razorbacks are getting a coach who's a proven winner. It's not often that coaches with three consecutive conference titles in a BCS conference are available for the taking, but Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long pulled it off. Considering the way things have gone in Fayetteville over the last year from the Bobby Petrino embarrassment to the John L. Smith disaster, things couldn't have played out any better for the school.

The SEC West, already one of the most competitive and entertaining divisions in all of college football, just got even better.

 
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