Nebraska football won’t have Bret Bielema to kick it around any more. As broken by Yahoo! Sports, Bielema will be the new head football coach at Arkansas next season. It remains unclear if Bielema will coach the Badgers for their Rose Bowl appearance against Stanford, so it is possible Bielema’s last B1G game will be the 70-31 evisceration of Nebraska in the conference title game.
Bielema’s shock move to the SEC caught many by surprise, and some are questioning whether it is a smart move for his career. Nebraska fans, along with some disgruntled Wisconsin fans, may be hoping his introduction to Arkansas sports culture is as awkward as Dana Altman’s when he moved from Creighton to Arkansas for about 20 minutes in 2008.
But Bielema’s move will have concrete impacts on Nebraska, both now and in the future.
Recruiting becomes a little easier
As was demonstrated in the B1G title game, Nebraska has some pretty immediate needs to fill on both sides of the ball. Wisconsin will always be in the mix for a number of athletes that Nebraska is targeting. Bielema’s departure can’t help but put a question mark into some of the players who had committed to Wisconsin, as well as some of the players who were considering Madison. That transition may open up additional opportunities for Nebraska as recruiting season warms up.
Ohio State’s run to Indianapolis becomes clearer
There are a number of candidates to replace Bielema, from Paul Chryst to Charlie Strong to Darrell Bevell. But regardless of who takes over, a new coach will bring new ideas and a new system, meaning that Wisconsin almost certainly will take a step back as a new coach takes the reins in Madison.
Given that (at least for now) Maryland and Rutgers aren’t joining the B1G until 2014, the current divisional structure will likely be in place next season. Ohio State will be off probation, and will start reaping the rewards of Urban Meyer’s recruiting. Penn State will really start feeling the effects of the four-year Sandusky scholarship limits, and should take a step backwards. Purdue will be hiring a new coach this year. Indiana is improving, but is still Indiana. And Illinois, probably the worst team in the B1G regardless of what Kirk Herbstreit says, doesn’t look to have much light at the end of the 2013 tunnel.
All that means Ohio State’s path to the Legends Division title and a trip to Indianapolis looks pretty well set. While the Buckeyes fall off Nebraska’s regular season schedule next year, any hope NU has to finally win a division title will likely include knocking off Ohio State on a neutral field.
The stature of the B1G diminishes
The B1G hasn’t had the best of years from a national perspective, and looks likely to have another poor bowl season this year. The SEC is viewed as the gold standard for college football, with the B1G and other conferences scrambling to catch up.
So when the head coach of the three-time B1G champion leaves to take a head coaching position of a team that is third-best (and maybe fourth-best, depending on what Texas A&M does with Johnny Football) in its own division, the inevitable conclusion is that the B1G is a junior varsity to the SEC.
That perception gets worse when you consider that, according to the Huffington Post, Bielema will be earning $3.2 million per year, a raise of only $600,000 from his current salary of $2.6 million, according to Forbes.
So if Bielema didn’t get blown away by money, it’s hard to escape the conclusion that Bielema—remember, the coach of the B1G champions—views the SEC as the place to be. And a diminishment of Nebraska's new conference home can do nothing but hurt NU.
Bo Pelini isn’t going anywhere
So, how does Bret Bielema's departure affect Nebraska?
The Children of the Corn were up in arms at the thought of Pelini leaving Lincoln for Fayetteville, as demonstrated by this Omaha.com article, at least before the debacle in Indianapolis. Of all the SEC positions available this year (assuming Les Miles doesn’t jump ship at LSU), Arkansas always looked to be the most likely to poach Pelini.
Now, with Arkansas hiring Bielema from Wisconsin, speculation about Pelini’s relocation should die down significantly.
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