Touted by Athletic Director Josh Whitman as a 'proven winner', Bret Bielema is introduced as University of Illinois football coach,accepting a six-year deal.
Having the likes of Kirk Ferentz, Barry Alvarez and Bill Belichick as references is not a bad look on a resume. A defensive lineman at Iowa, Bielema was Alvarez's hand-picked successor at Wisconsin in 2006. Over seven seasons the Badgers continued their successful smash-mouth brand, winning the Big Ten in each of his last three seasons, notably the 2011 team that featured grad-transfer quarterback Russell Wilson.
After the 2012 regular season, Bielema shocked many when he accepted the head coach position at Arkansas. The Razorbacks gained modest success for three seasons during Bielema's five-year run, but plummeted to a 4-8 record in 2017. Most telling was the team's 11-29 record in conference play, the bright lights of the Southeastern Conference proved glaring.
The past three years Bielema served in NFL capacities, mostly behind the scenes. He earned a Super Bowl ring as consultant and defensive line coach for the New England Patriots in 2018-19 and was part of the New York Giants staff this season. An Illinois native and still just 50, Bielema returns home and has a map for success in the Big Ten. A reasonable goal - challenging Wisconsin and Iowa for division supremacy.