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A name appears, then quickly disappears in NU coaching search

A name appears, then quickly disappears in NU coaching search

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Misdirection play.

For about 90 minutes Wednesday, Husker fans debated the merits of a former foe joining their ranks. Yeah, Bret Bielema was briefly the flavor of the day after a report by FootballScoop.com suggested he was Nebraska's main target.

The report suggested NU athletic director Shawn Eichorst "is in serious talks" with the Arkansas head football coach, and pointed out the extensive relationship the two had while both worked at Wisconsin.

Whether it was all a bunch of smoke or contained kernels of truth, guess as you might. All we know for sure is that the Arkansas coach batted the report away soon enough, telling ESPN reporter Chris Low he was "all Hog."

You'll get no comment from Nebraska's side. As promised Sunday, Eichorst has been tight-lipped, with the Bielema report the first media leak of any kind.

And while it may have reminded some of 2003, when another Arkansas coach, Houston Nutt, was said to have been offered the Husker job, there were no sightings of an NU plane on the tarmac in Fayetteville, Arkansas, this time.

The report came from a respected website in regard to breaking coaching news, and was also backed up by well-known college football writer Bruce Feldman, who tweeted he's been "told NU likes (Bielema)."

The idea may have seemed dubious to some, considering Bielema has been the head Hog just two years, and seems about to reap the benefits after some early struggles that include a 2-14 record against SEC teams.

After the Razorbacks went just 3-9 a season ago, they improved to 6-6 as a member of the difficult SEC West. The Razorbacks won just two conference games, though both were impressive wins — 17-0 against LSU and 30-0 against Ole Miss in back-to-back weeks last month.

Also, just three hours before the report, Bielema told Arkansas reporters in a conference call: "I can't tell you how excited I am for next year. Obviously, my commitment to Arkansas is long-term."

Even so, a source close to the Arkansas staff told the Journal Star there was some concern that struggles next season could lead to job instability for Bielema and his crew, despite the fact many analysts seem of the mind the program is on the uptick.

There is also this: Eichorst and Bielema know each other well. Eichorst held high-level roles in the Wisconsin athletic department while Bielema was the head coach of the Badgers.

The 44-year-old Bielema compiled a 68-24 record at Wisconsin (37-19 in the Big Ten) from 2006-2012, going 12-1 his first year, and winning three straight conference championships his last three years, including in 2012, when a Wisconsin team that finished 8-6 drilled NU 70-31 in the Big Ten Championship Game.

But when Bielema left for Arkansas after that win, before Wisconsin's appearance in the Rose Bowl, things did not end on good terms with Badger athletic director Barry Alvarez, who is something of a mentor to Eichorst.

"I've got to tell you," Alvarez told USA Today in August 2013. "And I'm not saying this negatively, because Bret did a good job for us, but I haven't had one person say, 'Well, it's too bad Bret left,' or 'We were sorry to see Bret leave,' or 'Couldn't you have paid the assistants more money to keep him?' Not one."

In any event, Nebraska's coaching search and the guessing game that comes with it heads into Day 4 with clues hidden from view.

​Reach the writer at 402-473-7439 or bchristopherson@journalstar.com. On Twitter @HuskerExtraBC.

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