Bielema has agreed to become the new coach of the Razorbacks, according to a person familiar with the situation that 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. Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long tweeted that an announcement was planned Tuesday evening.
Another person familiar with the situation said Bielema’s deal is for six years, paying $3.2 million annually.
Bielema is leaving the Big Ten for the SEC and a Razorbacks program that opened the year with hopes of challenging for a national championship only to get mired in the Bobby Petrino scandal before stumbling to a 4-8 finish.
The move was the second stunning hire this year at Arkansas, which brought in John L. Smith as the interim coach after firing Petrino for hiring his mistress to work in the athletic department.
Bielema seems likely to bring a far different approach than what the Razorbacks have become accustomed to. Arkansas continually ranked among the Southeastern Conference’s best passing teams under Petrino while Bielema is known for his dominant offensive lines and slew of running backs.
Wisconsin running back Montee Ball tied Barry Sanders’ long-standing single-season record of 39 touchdowns last year, and this year became the all-time FBS leader in touchdowns. He currently has 82 touchdowns after running for three in Saturday’s Big Ten title game against Nebraska _ a 70-31 romp that secured the Badgers third straight trip to the Rose Bowl, where they will play Stanford on Jan. 1.
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.
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.
The Illinois native takes over a program still reeling following the April scandal, one eager for stability and leadership.
“I’m excited about this decision,” Arkansas cornerback Tevin Mitchel tweeted.
The Razorbacks 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 title.
Then came the April 1 motorcycle accident that led to Petrino’s downfall. The married father of four initially lied about being alone during the wreck, later admitting to riding with his mistress _ a former Arkansas volleyball player he had hired to work in the athletic department.