In a shocking development Tuesday, Brett Bielema accepted the Arkansas job.
Some Wisconsin fans who didn't think much of his coaching will say good riddance.
But there's no denying that Bielema's departure creates a negative perception about Wisconsin. And a large part of recruiting is perception.
Wisconsin has represented the Big Ten in the Rose Bowl for three consecutive seasons, and its coach just left for what is, at best, the eight best job in the SEC. The man who took Wisconsin to the Rose Bowl just bolted for a job that is not in the top half of the SEC. Think about that.
To recruits, that very well could say "this program is topped out. It's gone as far as it can go. And with the talent being brought in by Ohio State and Michigan, it's about to take a step back."
And that's potentially correct. Ohio State and Michigan are recruiting at a level right now that no school in the conference can come close to matching.
The sudden and shocking departure of Bielema hurts Wisconsin's recruiting efforts quite a bit. Madison is not a destination job, and Wisconsin is unlikely to be able to land a big name there.
Worse yet, Wisconsin's recruiting had been improving under Bielema, as he established more relationships throughout the Midwest, and defensive coordinator Charlie Partridge continued to unearth gems in South Florida. By some accounts, Wisconsin was building a top-20 recruiting class. Now, that finish seems quite unlikely.
Any new hire will likely take a bit of time to establish relationships, and as noted above, will probably have to do so with Wisconsin slipping back to the Big Ten pack as Ohio State and Michigan's recent recruiting hauls mature.
Wisconsin needs to focus on what made men like Barry Alvarez and Brett Bielema successful recruiters.
There's not much talent in Wisconsin, but it's very important that the coaching staff knows the lay of the land and is on potential talents before other schools can get to them. Keeping relationships with high school coaches is vital, particularly if Wisconsin wants to receive the call when a rising senior has a big growth spurt and is suddenly a candidate to, perhaps with a redshirt, mature into one of Wisconsin's next great offensive linemen.
Of course, identifying gems and talent development only goes so far. Out-of-state recruiting is also key. Wisconsin did that recently via Partridge's work in Florida, and the Badgers should absolutely attempt to retain Partridge or find another ace recruiter for the Florida area. Might I suggest Mario Cristobal as an offensive line coach or offensive coordinator?
It's probably too early to speculate as to which recruits might decommit, but given the massive staff turnover of the last two seasons (including offensive coordinator Paul Cryst leaving to become Pitt's head coach, along with several assistants), relationships between Wisconsin and its commitments are be shaky at best.
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