FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas coach Bret Bielema is losing a key piece of his coaching staff, according to multiple reports Saturday night.
Assistant head coach/defensive line coach Charlie Partridge will be named the next head coach at Florida Atlantic. The South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported that the Plantation native interviewed Friday and has been offered the position, which has been open since Carl Pelini’s resignation on Oct. 30.
Bielema declined comment through an Arkansas spokesperson Saturday night.
Partridge could not be reached for comment Saturday night. Both the Sun-Sentinel and ESPN.com reported that Partridge’s contract with FAU will be finalized today.
The 40-year-old has been vital to Arkansas’ recruiting efforts in South Florida, playing a big role in a 2013 signing class that included Florida natives like Alex Collins, offensive lineman Denver Kirkland and safety D’Andre Coley.
He has long been regarded as a strong recruiting in his home state, signing numerous players throughout his coaching career. Arkansas has hoped to use his long-standing connections — along with those of Bielema and linebackers coach Randy Shannon — to continue to sign talent out of the state for the Razorbacks.
But Partridge also played a big role with Arkansas’ defense last season, working with second-team All-Southeastern Conference defensive ends Chris Smith and Trey Flowers. Partridge was vital in helping the Razorbacks develop younger players like defensive tackle Darius Philon and defensive end Deatrich Wise, too.
The coach has worked on Bielema’s staff at Arkansas and Wisconsin for the past five seasons. He also was an assistant coach at Pittsburgh, Eastern Illinois, Iowa State and Drake earlier in his coaching career. Partridge was a defensive lineman at Drake from 1992-95, playing with Arkansas defensive coordinator Chris Ash.
FAU — which won its final four games to finish 6-6 in 2013 — will owe Arkansas a small buyout for hiring Partridge, whose salary was set at $350,000 annually with the Razorbacks. His Arkansas letter of agreement stipulated that Partridge would have to pay liquidated damages if he left before June 30, 2014.
The amount is not quite clear, though. The letter of agreement said Partridge’s buyout would begin at $50,000 and be prorated over the term of the agreement.
Bielema said last month he had hoped all of his assistant coaches would return even though the Razorbacks finished 3-9 last season. But Bielema now will have to replace one of his top assistants as Arkansas moves into 2014.