CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- Illinois head coach Bret Bielema conducted his spring practice recap media conference on May 4 and discussed several topics as the Illini approach an offseason leading into the 2021 season.
Bielema, 50, originally from Prophetstown, Illinois but confirmed in his first national interview on ESPN’s College Gameday that he “was born in an Illini Hospital in Silvis, Illinois” played football at Iowa under Hayden Fry and can boast recent successful periods as a head coach at Wisconsin and Arkansas.
Bielema was 68–24 in seven seasons after taking over the Wisconsin program from Barry Alvarez after he assumed the athletics director position. Bielema left Wisconsin to take the job at Arkansas where he went to bowl games in three straight seasons 2014-16 but expectations were he’d challenge Alabama and Auburn for the Western Division title during his tenure and a 4-8 record in 2017 doomed his future as the Razorbacks fired him after five seasons. Since being fired from Arkansas, Bielema was hired by the New England Patriots as a defensive consultant to head coach Bill Belichick and was promoted ahead of the 2019 season to defensive line coach. Bielema served this season as the outside linebackers coach and senior assistant coach with the New York Giants under first-year head coach Joe Judge.
Bielema’s initial contract is for six years beginning with an annual salary of $4.2 million. Bielema’s coaching pedigree and list of football mentors matches that of any coach in the nation. He played for and coached under Fry, helping the Hawkeyes share the 1990 Big Ten title with Illinois. After two years as a graduate assistant and six seasons as linebacker coach at Iowa, Bielema spent two years as Co-Defensive Coordinator at Kansas State under Bill Snyder, helping the Wildcats win the 2003 Big 12 Championship. Two seasons later, he was named defensive coordinator at Wisconsin under Alvarez and moved into the head coaching role of the Badgers in 2006 when Alvarez retired.