Former Arkansas football coach Bret Bielema will receive an $11.8 million buyout to pay off the final three years of his contract, a source familiar with the situation told ESPN on Friday.
Some members of Arkansas' board of trustees tried to argue that the school owed Bielema between $5 million and $6 million. Bielema's attorney, meanwhile, wanted the full $15.4 million buyout. But the sides agreed on the negotiated settlement, which should be executed in the next few days, the source told ESPN.
The Razorbacks are expected to focus their coaching search on Auburn's Gus Malzahn, a former Arkansas assistant coach. Arkansas officials announced earlier this week that the school had hired DHR International to conduct its coaching search.
The Razorbacks are expected to contact Malzahn after No. 2 Auburn plays No. 6 Georgia in Saturday's SEC championship game in Atlanta. If the Tigers defeat the Bulldogs for the second time this season, they'll likely be among the four teams playing the College Football Playoff.
Malzahn, who has a 45-20 record in his fifth season at Auburn, is a former Arkansas high school coach and was head coach at Arkansas State in 2012. He was the Razorbacks' offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach in 2006.
In his first season at Auburn in 2013, Malzahn guided the Tigers to a 12-2 record, SEC championship and an appearance in the BCS National Championship Game, where it lost to Florida State 34-31 on a last-second touchdown.
Bielema, 47, would become the fourth FBS coach to receive a contract buyout in excess of $10 million. UCLA's Jim Mora ($12.275 million), Arizona State's Todd Graham ($12.26 million) and Texas A&M's Kevin Sumlin ($10.46 million) also are scheduled to receive sizable buyouts after being fired in November.
If the Razorbacks pay Bielema the negotiated buyout, the seven programs from Power 5 conferences that fired their coaches during the past two months would be scheduled to pay more than $69 million in contract buyouts. Tennessee's Butch Jones ($8.125 million), Florida's Jim McElwain ($7.5 million) and Nebraska's Mike Riley ($6.63 million) each received buyouts of more than $6 million.
In some instances, the fired coaches have negotiated smaller buyouts with their former employers. For instance, McElwain received a $7.5 million buyout rather than the $12.9 million buyout he was owed after Florida officials threatened to fire him with cause.