Bret Bielema shocked many yesterday by accepting a job offer from Arkansas for a pay raise of “just” $600,000. Leaving the three-time Big Ten champions for a middle of the pack SEC West program raised plenty of eyebrows and set off some alarms in regards to the state of coaching in the Big Ten.
Whether Bielema’s move to Arkansas is indicative of the state of the Big Ten coaching circle is fair to debate, but it would appear Bielema is accepting a position in a program that is either more secure or committed to funding his staff. Keeping assistant coaches in Madison had been a struggle over the last couple of seasons and money was always thought to be a concern. With deep pockets funding and supporting Arkansas football (hello Jerry Jones), this may not be the issue for Bielema at Arkansas.
Bielema’s departure to Arkansas does have an impact on Penn State of course. Penn State will be keeping a close eye on who Wisconsin pulls in to head the football program, with Pittsburgh head coach Paul Chryst believed to be a popular target. Chryst was an assistant under Bielema and still has roots at Wisconsin. In his first season at Pitt Chryst was 6-6, getting the Panthers back to the BBVA Compass Bowl.
While Wisconsin now undergoes a coaching change, it would not be a shock to see in-state recruiting rival Pittsburgh have to go through another coaching change, their fourth in three years. If instability means anything in recruiting battles, that could benefit Penn State with in-state recruiting. Or it could send some potential Pitt recruits to a division rival.
Also, Temple lost energetic Steve Addazio to Boston College on Tuesday. That is a tough blow for the Philadelphia school working hard to improve. Though mentioned early on, it does not look as though former Penn State defensive coordinator Tom Bradley will be a candidate for the job.
For those keeping score at home…
There have now been 21 coaching changes in Bill O’Brien’s coaching career, just 883 away from the total changes during Joe Paterno’s career. That number could continue to rise soon enough as well.
Indiana’s Kevin Wilson is now the dean of head coaches in the Big Ten Leaders Division, with two years as head coach of the Hoosiers. O’Brien, Tim Beckman and Urban Meyer just wrapped up their first year in the Big Ten. Purdue just hired Kent State’s Darrell Hazel to fill their vacancy and Wisconsin is now on the prowl.
Rutgers sues Big East for early exit
The Big East has a flexible 27-month exit period for outgoing members. It is flexible because it has been proven it is not concrete over the past year. Rutgers, learning a lesson from observing other former Big East conference rivals, will pursue legal action to attempt to exit the Big East before the 27-month waiting period expires.
West Virginia was the first to challenge the Big East’s 27-month exit period, successfully reaching a settlement to allow the Mountaineers begin play in the Big 12 this season well before 27 months had passed. Pittsburgh followed a similar tactic in their attempt to join the ACC next year, and were successful in that venture. Syracuse took a different approach with exiting the Big East, and were awarded a settlement for early exit before Pittsburgh reached their settlement soon after.
Rutgers suing the Big East should result in the conference letting the Scarlet Knights joining the Big Ten before 2015. With Maryland already committed to join the Big Ten in 2014, leaving the ACC, it would appear to be very likely Rutgers would be able to join the Big Ten at the same time.
Now if the conference moves to 16 members…
Bill O’Brien up for another coaching honor
Penn State head coach Bill O’Brien was named a finalist for the Maxwell Football Club Collegiate Coach of the Year award. The other coaches up for the award are Notre Dame’s Brian Kelly and Kansas State’s Bill Snyder. It should be noted that having a first name that begins with “B” is not a requirement for the award.
Earlier this week O’Brien was named a finalist for the Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year and the Football Writers Association of America’s Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year. O’Brien is also on the watch list for the Bear Bryant National Coach of the Year Award.
Penn State Fan Vote accepting nominations
Nittany Lions Den is holding the first annual Penn State Fan Vote, and is accepting nominations for a variety of categories including standard player awards as well as non-traditional awards for best Penn State Twitter user, reporter, media outlet and more. Check it out and submit your nominations.
Kevin is a national college football writer for rootshed.com and the host of the No 2-Minute Warning podcast. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.