Bielema to Hogs; Malzahn, Auburn

Posted: December 05, 2012

WISCONSIN COACH Bret Bielema is taking his brand of power football to Arkansas, and Auburn brought back offensive guru Gus Malzahn as its head coach in a blockbuster day for the SEC.

Both hirings were announced last night.

A source said Bielema's contract with Arkansas is for 6 years and $3.2 million annually. Bielema, Barry Alvarez's handpicked successor at Wisconsin, was 68-24 with the Badgers. He coached Wisconsin to a 17-14 victory over Arkansas in his first season at the Capital One Bowl.

Bielema, 42, 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. Arkansas had brought in John L. Smith as the interim coach after firing Petrino for hiring his mistress to work in the athletic department. The school announced after the season that Smith wouldn't return.

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 running backs.

Wisconsin running back Montee Ball tied Barry Sanders' longstanding 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.

"His tough, aggressive style of play has been successful and will be appealing to student-athletes and Razorback fans," Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long said in a statement. "He not only shares the vision and values for the future of Arkansas football, he embraces them."

Meanwhile, Auburn turned to Malzahn to restore a program that made an unprecedented fall 2 years after winning a national title with Cam Newton operating his offense. Malzahn was the Tigers' offensive coordinator during their 2010 national championship run before heading to Arkansas State for his first college head-coaching position. He received a 5-year contract worth $2.3 million annually from Auburn.

"I recruited a lot of them and have very good relationships," Malzahn said. "I just told them our expectations are to win championships. Whatever happened last year happened last year. It's a new day."

He led the Red Wolves to a 9-3 record, a Sun Belt Conference title and a berth in the GoDaddy.com Bowl, then parlayed that into a job in the powerhouse Southeastern Conference. Malzahn hasn't ruled out coaching in the bowl game for Arkansas State, which said he had a $700,000 buyout.

Malzahn, 47, returns with his fast-paced, no-huddle offensive style. He replaces former boss Gene Chizik, who was fired after a 49-0 loss to Alabama to complete a 3-9 season.

Noteworthy * 

The Maxwell Football Club plans to honor Penn State's 31 seniors for the players' commitment and leadership during a challenging season, with the Thomas Brookshier Spirit Award.

* Notre Dame defensive coordinator Bob Diaco won the Broyles Award as the nation's top assistant coach.

* Gabe Rivera, Texas Tech's "Senor Sack" whose NFL career was cut short in 1983 by a car accident that left him a paraplegic, was among 14 players and three coaches inducted in the College Football Hall of Fame.

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