Photo Courtesy of Peoria Journal Star via Illinois Athletics
In true Josh Whitman from the University of Illinois wasted NO time in filling the 1-week old coaching vacancy. They reached back into the NFL and tabbed New York Giants assistant Bret Bielema as the choice to lead the Illini program as Head Coach. A six-year deal worth a reported starting salary of 4.6 million. Illinois made the announcement around 8:30 am Saturday.
Bielema coaching in the NFL
Before being the Giants' Assistant (2020), he coached for Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots as a consultant to the head coach in 2018 and defensive coordinator in 2019.
Collegiate coaching experience
1994-1995 Graduate assistant for Iowa under Hayden Fry
1996-2001 promoted by Fry to Linebacker coach at Iowa.
2002-2003 He became the C0-Defensive Coordinator for Hall of Fame coach Bill Snyder at Kansas State.
2004-2005 he was hired by Barry Alvarez as Wisconsin's Defensive Coordinator.
2006-2012 promoted to Head Coach at Wisconsin When Alvarez became full-time AD.
As the Head coach at the University of Wisconsin, he compiled a 68-24 record, including going 12-1 in his FIRST year, winning the Capital One Bowl, and having his team ranked 7th in a postseason AP poll. All of this culminated in him being named Big Ten Coach of the year! In his 7 seasons at Wisconsin, his teams were ranked in the top 25 postseason polls 5 times, with 3 of those being in the top 10. Wisconsin appeared in 6 bowl games during his tenure, including two Rose Bowls, only going 2-4. (Actually, it was 7 bowl games, but Bielema did not coach the Rose Bowl in 2012). Wisconsin, under Bielema tied for the Big Ten Championship in 2010, won the Championship in 2011 and 2012. However, in 2012 they reached the championship game because The top two teams in the legends division (Ohio State and Penn State) were declared ineligible for post-season play.
In 2013-2017 he took over the University of Arkansas football program. Not having quite the success there in 5 years, he had 3 winning seasons with an overall record of 29-34 and 3 bowl appearances with a 2-1 record. Bielema won no conference Championships at Arkansas'
His overall coaching record in college is 97-58 and 4-5 in bowl games.
Having an Illinois Guy
Bielema is a native of Prophetstown, Illinois, Born January 3, 1970. He played college football at Iowa as a defensive lineman 1989-1992 under Hayden Fry. He signed with the Seattle Seahawks as a Free Agent in 1993(never played) and played one year with the Milwaukee Mustangs of the Arena Football League.
Bielema is very familiar with the Midwest and knows what the recruiting landscape looks like. Being an Illinois native son is a big plus. When he was Defensive Coordinator at Wisconsin, he was the chief recruiter in Illinois. It was widely thought that Whitman would need a coach with an Illini or at least an Illinois connection. Bret Bielema has that in spades, and it should not take him long to reconnect with Illinois High School Coaches.