Bret Bielema is enjoying the NFL so much, he may never go back to college football

Bret Bielema isn't going to Kansas.

And he might not be returning to college football.

Bielema's name has come up as a popular choice to replace David Beaty, Kansas' embattled coach.

New Kansas athletic director Jeff Long hired Bielema at Arkansas in 2013. Long ultimately may have lost his job in Fayetteville because he didn't fire his coach after five mostly-disappointing seasons. Bielema was finally let go Nov. 24 as he walked off the field following a loss to Missouri. That was nine days after Long was fired.

While Bielema would not speak to the Kansas situation, sources close to him said the 48-year-old coach would not be returning to college football with his former boss at KU.

Whether Bielema goes back to college football at all appears to be a long shot, too. Since being fired by Arkansas, Bielema has joined the New England Patriots in a still-undefined role. Bielema reportedly helped the Pats during the combine and NFL Draft.

"The thing I love about football in the NFL is you go to work at 6 a.m. and you leave at 9 [p.m.] and it's nothing but football," Bielema told CBS Sports. "It's just purely football."

Look for an announcement soon regarding Bielema perhaps landing a more permanent job with the Pats. Pro Football Talk said that Bielema will "likely" have a spot on the defensive side of the ball.

That's where most of his experience lies. Before becoming a head coach, Bielema was defensive coordinator at Wisconsin, co-DC at Kansas State and linebackers coach at Iowa.

"It's a whole different way to coach [in the NFL]," Bielema said. "I understand once they go to that level, coaches don't ever go back.

"One of the most 'a-ha' moments was one of the first drills I did during OTAs," he added. "I had 11 [defensive] guys go through the drills. 'Holy cow, these guys are good.' These are the elite of your elite."

If this is it for Bielema in the college game, he will leave quite a legacy. Following his mentor Barry Alvarez at Wisconsin, Bielema won at least 10 games in seven seasons as the Badgers' coach. At one time, he was the college game's most elite coaches. Wisconsin's brand of physical play in both lines boiled the game down to its physical essence. There wasn't much fooling the Badgers.

But Bielema shocked the football world at the top of his career, wanting to test his chops in the SEC. Following back-to-back Rose Bowl appearances, Bielema went to Arkansas in 2013. In five seasons with the Hogs, he was 29-34.

Unless there is a college reset for Bielema, that grand career experiment may have failed. Meanwhile, Wisconsin hasn't missed a beat lately. Paul Chryst -- Bielema's former offensive coordinator -- is 34-7 in his three seasons as coach.

"Paul's kind of kept to the same formula," Bielema said. "It's obviously one that has worked in that niche market."

CBS Sports Senior Writer

Dennis Dodd has covered college football for CBS Sports since it was CBS SportsLine in 1998. He is one of only seven media members to attend all 16 BCS title games and has chronicled conference realignment... Full Bio

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