One week after leaving Madison, former Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema is taking his first assistant to Fayetteville, as Arkansas announced Tuesday UW co-defensive coordinator Chris Ash will take the same job with the Razorbacks.
Ash is honoring his word and will stay with the Badgers through the Rose Bowl – his third trip to Pasadena in as many years with the program – a commitment he made following practice Saturday.
In his three seasons at Wisconsin – the last two as co-defensive coordinator alongside Charlie Partridge – Ash’s coaching responsibilities focused on the defensive backs. Under the duo this year, the Badgers’ defense was much improved, giving up just 320.9 yards per game, ranking third best in the Big Ten and 13th nationally.
“In the last three years working together, I gained a great respect for the way Chris teaches the game and develops student-athletes,” Bielema said in a statement released by Arkansas Tuesday. “I’ve followed his career for a long time, and his knowledge of the way we run our program and specifically the defense will be valuable for us moving forward in our transition.”
Ash spent his first year with the Badgers in 2010 as the defensive backs coach, and this year a secondary loaded with veterans showed significant growth. The unit allowed 196.5 yards per game, ranking right in the middle of the conference.
After Bielema left for Arkansas, there was much speculation Ash would join former UW defensive coordinator Dave Doeren at N.C. State. Doeren was recently hired as the Wolfpack head coach and was a former college teammate of Ash’s at Drake and the two briefly coached together at their alma mater.
In his introductory press conference at Arkansas, Bielema noted that the relatively low pay for assistants at Wisconsin was a factor in his decision to leave. Ash will likely get a nice salary bump with the Razorbacks, as Bielema has said the program offers a significantly larger pool for paying assistant coaches.
“As soon as we won [the Big Ten championship], I had three coaches come to me the day after the game, they had been contacted by other schools and were talking money that I can’t bring them at Wisconsin,” he said. “Wisconsin isn’t wired to do that at this point, and I just felt for me and for my future and my wife and what I wanted to accomplish in the world of college football, I needed to have that ability to do that.”
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