In his first four seasons as head coach at Wisconsin, Bret Bielema has amassed an impressive array of accomplishments. Below are just a few, taken from Bielema’s profile on the UW athletics site:
–A top-15 winning percentage over his first four years
–Victories in 17 of his first 18 games
–Victories in his first 16 home games
–A 12-1 record and a bowl win in his first season
–21 wins in his first two seasons
Most of these statistics come from the first half of Bielema’s time in the head coaching position for the Badgers, and some think that Bielema’s early success was largely just a result of riding Barry Alvarez’s coattails upon taking over the program. However, after a down year in 2008, relatively speaking, the Badgers came back strong in 2009 to post a 10-3 record and another bowl victory, giving credence to the perspective that Bielema deserves some of the credit for Wisconsin’s success in 2006 and 2007.
At only 40 years of age, Bielema is a young coach for a major program, and has plenty of time to prove himself capable of carrying on the tradition of a strong Wisconsin program that Barry Alvarez did so much to establish. For his efforts thus far, Bielema was rewarded with a contract extension at the beginning of the year that solidified the commitment to him through 2015. As Alvarez’s hand-picked successor, it’s no surprise that Bielema enjoys the support from UW athletics administration, which Alvarez now leads.
Overall, Bielema’s rise to the top of the one of the nation’s best programs has been fairly quick. After attending the University of Iowa from 1989-1992, where he played nose guard, Bielema signed on with the Iowa coaching staff, where he stayed until 2001. He then joined Kansas State for the 2002 and 2003 seasons before beginning his time at Wisconsin in 2004. The fact that Bielema was chosen by Alvarez to take over the head coach position for the Badgers after only two years on the staff and no prior head coaching experience speaks to a high level of talent and strong work ethic.
That work ethic likely was first learned while working on his family’s hog farm growing up in Prophetstown, Illinois. But while this background might bring to mind a stereotypical image of a blunt, simple-minded figure whose football team would be overly focused on a bruising running game……well, okay maybe that part is accurate….Bielema comes across as rather reflective, insightful, and well-spoken when reading his comments and listening to him in interviews.
That’s not to say that Bielema is all spit-shine and no spittle, of course. Remember, this coach was a lineman, not a quarterback. The in-your-face approach has been noted at times, such as when Bielema called Iowa State coach Jim Walden a “big prick,” or when he went for 2 while up 25 on Minnesota as recently as last week. These minor controversies are understandable, right? After all, sometimes you’ve just got to take your frustrations out on something when you’re remembering that stupid tattoo you got all those years ago, or the fact that the best recruiting line you could come up with was “Big W on the helmet,” and your standard violent approach to golf just isn’t allowing you to sufficiently get the angst out.
Coach Bielema, if you’re reading this, I salute your success thus far this season. May the best team win on Saturday.