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December 5, 2012

Bielema spreads his wings

Bret Bielema spent nine years with the Wisconsin Badgers, both as an assistant and as a head coach, but when he was introduced as the new head coach of the Arkansas Razorbacks, he said it was time to spread his wings.

"I just felt it was time for me to spread my wings and fly a little further," Bielema said in his introductory press conference, wearing a Razorbacks tie and lapel pin.

Bielema's wife Jenn joined him on stage, as well as Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long. Long said that talks began between Bielema and the Razorbacks the day after Bielema led the Badgers to a 70-31 win over Nebraska in the Big Ten Championship Game. Bielema then met with Long in New York City on Monday, and the deal was finalized on Tuesday.

Bielema said the decision to leave Wisconsin was difficult and he's had other opportunities presented to him over the last few years, but moving to Arkansas was the best move for him.

"It was a very difficult decision, something that I didn't just think about," Bielema said. "I have a tremendous respect for Wisconsin, but the opportunity to be in the SEC is just something I really wanted to do."

Bielema said his goal is to win an SEC and National Title, something he apparently told his former players in a brief but emotional team meeting last night in Madison.

Bielema said he would interview all current Arkansas assistants to see if he will retain them on his own staff, and didn't rule out the possibility of bringing assistants from Wisconsin down to Fayetteville. Bielema said he has a shortlist of about six coaches to be his offensive coordinator, but didn't mention any specific names.

Bielema compiled a 68-24 record at Wisconsin, including a 2-4 record in bowl games. Bielema succeeds John L. Smith as the head coach of the Razorbacks, who coached the team to a 4-8 record after Bobby Petrino was fired in April.

For more Wisconsin Badgers news, notes and discussion, follow John on Twitter.

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