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Bret Bielema to Arkansas--Black Eye For The Big Ten?

Does Bret Bielema leaving for a big payday in the SEC reflect poorly on the conference? On Wisconsin? On Wisconsin...See what I did there?

The card says go to Fayetteville, brah
The card says go to Fayetteville, brah
Jonathan Daniel

The stunning news that Bret Bielema is leaving Madison for the SEC is sending shockwaves through two major football conferences, the SEC and the B1G. Yahoo's! Pat Forde, who broke the story, called it a 'stunning coup'. I'll give him stunning, but I'm going to necessarily say it was a coup--but I can understand that at face value, it might seem that way. And the main national CFB writers--Dennis Dodd, Gregg Doyel, and so on, really like the hire.

And it was a good hire for an Arkansas program that was reeling under the Bobby Petrino scandal.

Also, John L.Smith.

Frank Schwab, also known as Dr. Saturday over on Yahoo!, wrote this in his blog:

Now, the Big Ten has to look at itself in the mirror. The coach of the three-time defending Big Ten champs just left for a team that just finished sixth in the SEC West, and probably isn't a top-five job in the SEC.

I'm not here to say it's a bad hire, but to call it a black eye and soul searching time for the B1G is a stretch. Let's look at what Bret Bielema has accomplished as the Wisconsin coach.

He took over for the legendary Barry Alvarez in 2006, and he's gone 68-24. No argument from me--that's pretty solid. In his seven years, he's won one outright B1G title and two B1G championship games. Yes, yes, Wisconsin technically won the B1G this year, but no one is seriously counting that as a championship except the folks in Madison and Biels himself. Also, Dr. Saturday. The only reason Wisconsin was even playing in that game is because of sanctions on OSU and Penn State, teams that both finished ahead of the Badgers in the Leaders division this year.

In his seven years as Wisconsin coach, he has one outright title, tied for another, and won his third place trophy this year. He's taken Wisconsin to 7 bowl games, (I have not heard if he will be coaching the Badgers in Pasadena this year). In his 6 other bowl games, he has coached in two BCS games, those being the last two Rose Bowls.

He lost those two eminently winnable games in agonizing fashion, and has gone 2-2 in the other 4 bowl games Bielema has coached in. That's a 2-4 record, kids.

Lat year's Rose Bowl loss was especially painful for Wisconsin, and the B1G in general. In the spring, Bielema scored a major coup of his own by landing QB Russell Wilson, and Wisconsin had the makings of a national championship team. But those hopes were dashed when they lost two conference games on literally the last play of the game, and then were outscored by Oregon in the Rose Bowl. What should have been an appearance in the BCS national championship game (and I think Wilson and Montee Ball would've given Alabama fits) ended up an 11-3 team, with no BCS anything to show for it.

So, if anything, I'm going to make the argument that Bret Bielema has underperformed when given superior talent, never took Wisconsin to an elite level, and saw most of his success only when Ohio State went into the tank because of their own scandal. He was only 1-5 against the Buckeyes, a team that is now off of NCAA sanctions and is his main roadblock to a Leaders division title. And under the pre-divisional format setup in the conference, Bielema never won an outright title.

When Urban Meyer took over at OSU, Bielema famously griped about not ever wanting the Big Ten to be like the SEC, and Meyer's response was a shot across the bow, and something that in Big Ten coaching circles wasn't usually done in such an in your face manner.

And in the SEC, that spat he had with Meyer is what they call 'Tuesday'.

So Bielema is leaving what is the fifth or sixth best job in the Big Ten (depending on how you view Penn State right now) for roughly the fifth or sixth best job in the SEC. All the programs ahead of Arkansas in the SEC--LSU, Alabama, Florida, Auburn, South Carolina, and Georgia, are all programs that have won or have coaches that have won national titles, with the exception of Georgia. And recent failures aside, Richt has won two SEC titles and two Sugar Bowls at Georgia.

Bielema has yet to win a BCS game. Good luck, Bret.

Bielema leaving hurts Wisconsin, but to call it a black eye for the conference is a stretch, at best.