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Report: Nebraska Targeting Bret Bielema in Huskers Coaching Search

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God bless coaching search season

Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

*****UPDATE*****

Numerous outlets are reporting Bielema is not interested in the Nebraska job. Bielema himself even tweeted a reference to being in Indianapolis at the moment, which he enjoys because it's a city in which he has fond memories. Like hanging 70 points on Nebraska in the Big 10 Championship Game.

Carry on.

**********

Not true, Coach!

Over the weekend, behind a paywall, the site HuskersOnline apparently reported that one name additional name they were hearing about the Nebraska search was Bret Bielema. Today, FootballScoop.com is reporting that Nebraska's athletic director has locked in on Bielema as apparently the top choice in his search.

As we all know about this time of year, and from going through it all two years ago, names are going to get thrown around. Many of them will be completely wrong, but some will have some substance behind them.

The question to ask is, if the report is true, would Bielema have any interest in going to Nebraska?

  1. It doesn't seem totally implausible. Nebraska AD Shawn Eichorst was an executive at Wisconsin during Bielema's tenure there, so presumably the two already have a relationship.
  2. Despite two years in the SEC, the Big Ten is still likely what feels like home for Bielema. It's where he went to college and spent the majority of his coaching career. And with the SEC West at an all-time peak the last couple of seasons, it would seem he'd have a much easier path to the College Football Playoffs at Nebraska than at Arkansas i.e. he's spent two years in the SEC and is like "Screw this! I'm out!"
  3. Bielema's buyout if he chooses to leave Arkansas is a paltry $2.5 million for the rest of the month, and down to $2 million in January. That's nothing for a major college football program. The $12.8 million buyout is only if Arkansas fires him.

But I don't think he'll leave. At least not this year. For several reasons.

  1. He stands to likely have his best team at Arkansas in 2015, particularly on offense. And after holding 10 4th-quarter leads this season, he surely has to believe something special could be around the corner, and after the stress of going 2-14, why wouldn't he want to enjoy the fruits of that struggle?
  2. Bo Pelini won 9 or 10 games each season he was in Lincoln and they fired him. He's earned nothing but enthusiastic support from Jeff Long and Arkansas through his rebuild and allowed him to build his way (although some fans have been impatient but that's what fans do).
  3. Arkansas earns more money and spends more money on athletics than Nebraska does. Bielema's current salary is about 100k-200k more than Pelini was earning, but you'd have to think Arkansas would spend enough to keep Bielema here if necessary. All that SEC Network money has to be good for something, right?
  4. I don't think he wants to come across as an SEC failure. Many would tag him as a guy who got scared off by the league, and that's not what he wants to do. Again, he is expected to field an improved Arkansas team next year, and has the highest-rated recruiting class of his career going at the moment, so he has a chance to fully prove himself on college football's biggest stage over the next few years.

I've long believed that if Bielema would leave for another school at this point, other than one of the elite programs in the nation (and I don't see how you can consider Nebraska at that caliber anymore) the school to worry about would be Iowa. Bielema is a Hayden Fry disciple and might have a hard time telling him no. The man has a Hawkeye tatoo on his leg. Fortunately for Arkansas, Kirk Ferentz has a stupid contract that will keep him in place for a while.

Now, might this all result in a nice raise for Bielema and/or his staff? That seems pretty likely.