|Bret Bielema Bio|
Courtesy: Athletic Communications
On Dec. 4, 2012 the University of Arkansas captivated the world of college football by naming Bret Bielema the 32nd head coach in Razorback history. Bielema, who had spent seven years at Wisconsin, represented the three qualities Arkansas was looking for: a leader of young men who holds student-athletes academically responsible and a coach who has a proven record of winning championships.
Bielema came to Fayetteville after leading the Badgers to three straight Rose Bowls by winning three consecutive Big Ten titles. Through one season in Fayetteville, Bielema owns a 71-33 (.683) career record as a head coach built behind strong offense, stifling defense and all-around disciplined play.
He made an immediate impact in the classroom as the team posted its highest GPA ever for a fall semester in 2013. The Athletic Department Honor Roll featured 31 of his student-athletes, while 28 were on the SEC honor roll, 10 made the AD list with a GPA of 3.5–3.99, 11 graduated in the fall of 2014, and 43 finished with a GPA of 3.0 or higher in the fall of 2013.
On the field, the future is bright as five players were named Freshmen All-Americans in 2013; running back Alex Collins, offensive linemen Denver Kirkland and Dan Skipper, tight end Hunter Henry and defensive tackle Darius Philon. Collins was named the SEC Freshman of the Year after he became the second Razorback freshman to rush for more than 1,000 yards in a season. Collins and Darren McFadden are the only two to do so in school history and the only two Razorbacks to be named the SEC Freshman of the Year.
In 2012, Bielema guided Wisconsin to its third straight Big Ten championship and the Badgers became the first team to represent the Big Ten in three straight Rose Bowls since Michigan qualified following the 1976-78 seasons. In his most recent game as Wisconsin head coach, Bielema led the Badgers to a 70-31 win over No. 14 Nebraska in the Big Ten Championship Game. Wisconsin became the second team to score 70 points in a conference championship game, matching the number scored by Texas in the 2005 Big 12 Championship Game. Wisconsin also had two 200-yard rushers in the same game for the first time in school history.
Also during the 2012 season, running back Montee Ball broke the NCAA career records for total touchdowns and rushing touchdowns. Ball has scored 82 total touchdowns, breaking the previous record of 78, and 76 rushing touchdowns, besting the old record of 73. As a team, the Badgers rank in the top 25 in the country in rushing offense, total defense, scoring defense, rushing defense, pass efficiency defense and pass defense.
In Bielema’s seven seasons as head coach, he has had 16 players earn All-America honors, including 10 first-team All-Americans. At Wisconsin he also coached two Outland Trophy winners, one Doak Walker Award recipient, one winner of the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award and one Lott IMPACT Trophy winner as well as finalists for numerous other individual awards, including the Heisman Trophy. In the last five years, 16 Badgers were taken in the NFL Draft, including three in the first round.
Bielema, who served as Wisconsin’s defensive coordinator for two seasons before becoming head coach, was on staff as UW compiled a 55-6 record at Camp Randall Stadium in his nine years. The Badgers won their first 16 home games under Bielema, the second-longest home winning streak in school history.
In his first two seasons as head coach, Bielema led Wisconsin to 21 wins. Only two other men in Big Ten history, Michigan’s Fielding Yost (22) and Ohio State’s Jim Tressel (21), have guided their teams to as many as 21 wins in their first two seasons as Big Ten head coaches.
Bielema coached Wisconsin to victories in 17 of his first 18 games. That represents the second-best start to a head coaching career in Big Ten history. Only Michigan’s Yost, who went 55-0-1 from 1901-05, had a better beginning to a career.
In 2011, the Badgers won the inaugural Big Ten Championship Game, defeating Michigan State 42-39 to advance to the Rose Bowl for the second straight season. Wisconsin, winners of the Leaders Division, finished the season with an 11-3 record and recorded 11 regular-season victories for just the third time in school history, all under Bielema’s watch.
Wisconsin’s high-powered offense ranked sixth in the country in scoring in 2011 behind quarterback Russell Wilson and Ball. They became the first teammates in FBS history to throw at least 30 touchdowns and run for at least 30 scores in the same season. Ball, a first-team All-American, was a finalist for the Heisman Trophy and tied Barry Sanders’ FBS record for touchdowns scored in a season with 39 and broke Sanders’ NCAA single-season scoring record with 236 points. Offensive linemen Peter Konz and Kevin Zeitler also earned first-team All-America recognition. The Badgers had a school-record nine players receive first-team All-Big Ten honors.
In 2010, the Badgers won a share of the 12th Big Ten championship in school history and first since 1999. UW tied a school record with seven conference victories and earned their first trip to the Rose Bowl since 1999. Wisconsin finished the season with an 11-2 record and ranked No. 7 in the final Associated Press Poll. The Badgers were explosive on offense, setting a school record and ranking fifth in the country in scoring offense averaging 41.5 points per game. Their 45.2 points per game in conference play was the second-highest average in Big Ten history. Wisconsin nearly became the first team in FBS history to have three running backs gain 1,000 yards in the same season as James White finished with 1,052 yards, John Clay had 1,012 and Ball ran for 996.
Wisconsin was the most disciplined team in the country in 2010, leading the nation in both fewest turnovers with nine and fewest penalties per game with an average of 3.15. UW also ranked in the top 10 nationally in pass efficiency, third-down conversions, fourth-down conversions, red zone offense, time of possession and turnover margin. The Badgers were one of just six teams in the country to rank among the top 25 in both total offense and total defense.
Wisconsin players took home several national awards in 2010, including the Outland Trophy (Gabe Carimi), the Lott IMPACT Trophy (J.J. Watt) and the Unitas Golden Arm Award (Scott Tolzien). Carimi, Clay, Lance Kendricks, John Moffitt and Watt were all named All-Americans, giving Wisconsin its most All-America honorees since 1999. Bielema also garnered national acclaim for the Badgers’ tremendous season. He was named a finalist for the Eddie Robinson, Bear Bryant and Home Depot Coach of the Year awards as well as a semifinalist for the Joseph V. Paterno Coach of the Year Award.
Eighteen players received All-Big Ten recognition, including five first-teamers. Carimi, Kendricks, Moffitt, Watt and Antonio Fenelus were all named first-team All-Big Ten, while Carimi was named Big Ten Offensive Lineman of the Year and White was chosen as the Big Ten Freshman of the Year.
Wisconsin’s success under Bielema translated to the classroom as well with 131 academic all-conference selections in seven seasons. UW had a school-record 25 members of the football team honored as Academic All-Big Ten in 2012, breaking the previous record of 22 set in 2009 and matched in 2010. Before 2009, the school record was 19, set in Bielema’s second season.
In 2009, Wisconsin won 10 games for just the sixth time in school history, capping the season with a win in the Champs Sports Bowl over No. 14 Miami. The Badgers started the season 5-0 before dropping a pair of games to teams ranked in the top 15. Wisconsin then won five of its last six games to finish the season 10-3. After not being ranked to start the season, UW finished the year ranked 16th in both polls.
In addition to team success, a number of Badger individuals earned honors in 2009. Running back John Clay was named Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year while linebacker Chris Borland took home conference freshman of the year honors. A total of five Badgers were named first-team All-Big Ten. Wisconsin led the Big Ten in scoring offense, total offense, rushing offense, rushing defense, sacks, time of possession and red zone offense. In the national rankings, UW ranked among the top 10 in rushing defense, third-down conversions, sacks, time of possession and red zone offense.
In 2008, Bielema guided the Badgers to a school-record seventh consecutive bowl game. UW began the season 3-0, including a road win at No. 21 Fresno State, Wisconsin’s first road win over a ranked non-conference opponent since 1958. Bielema took the Badgers to New Year’s Day bowl games in each of first his two campaigns as head coach. In 2007, the Badgers were 9-4 overall and Bielema was a semifinalist for the George Munger Award, given by the Maxwell Football Club to the national coach of the year. The 2007 Badgers fought through key injuries and other forms of adversity to win four of their last five games and earn an invitation to the Outback Bowl in Tampa, Fla. Tight end Travis Beckum and kicker Taylor Mehlhaff earned All-America honors.
Bielema guided the Badgers to a 12-1 overall record and 7-1 mark in the Big Ten during his rookie year in 2006. Wisconsin capped that record-setting season with a 17-14 win over Arkansas in the 2007 Capital One Bowl. No previous Wisconsin team had won more than 11 games in a season. In addition, Bielema became just the third rookie head coach in NCAA Bowl Subdivision history to pilot his team to 12 victories. His efforts were rewarded when he was named the 2006 Dave McClain Big Ten Coach of the Year. Bielema also was named one of five finalists for the Bear Bryant National Coach of the Year Award and was a finalist for the 2006 Schutt Sports Division IA Coach of the Year Award.
Wisconsin surprised most observers outside the program by setting school records for overall wins (12) and regular-season victories (11), as well as tying the UW mark for conference victories (seven). The Badgers did it with a defensive unit that ended the 2006 regular season ranked among the top three nationally in pass defense, pass efficiency defense, total defense and scoring defense. And they did it with an offense led by a pair of seniors (QB John Stocco and All-America tackle Joe Thomas), a young but talented offensive line, the Big Ten Freshman of the Year (P.J. Hill) at tailback and an emerging corps of receivers, including John Mackey Award semifinalist Travis Beckum.
Bielema was Wisconsin’s defensive coordinator in 2004 and 2005, a period in which the program produced a 19-6 record under former head coach Barry Alvarez. The 2004 Badgers were ranked sixth nationally in scoring defense and ninth in total defense. The 2005 club, which earned Wisconsin’s first shutout since 1999, finished its 10-win season with a 24-10 victory over No. 7 Auburn in the 2006 Capital One Bowl, limiting the high-powered Tigers to just 236 yards of total offense.
During Bielema’s two years guiding the Badger defense, two players earned first-team All-America honors and two others were first-team All-Big Ten selections. While coaching the Badgers’ linebackers, Bielema developed Mark Zalewski and Dontez Sanders, both of whom earned honorable mention all-conference acclaim.
Bielema was co-defensive coordinator at Kansas State under Bill Snyder in 2002 and 2003. The Wildcats were 22-6 during Bielema’s time in Manhattan and finished in the top 10 nationally both seasons in scoring and total defense. The Wildcats won their first Big 12 title in 2003. Among Bielema’s standout players at Kansas State were first-team All-American Josh Buhl, 2003 NFL second-round draft pick Terry Pierce and second-team All-Big 12 selection Bryan Hickman.
Prior to his years at Kansas State, Bielema spent nine seasons as an assistant coach at his alma mater, Iowa, where he worked for head coaches Hayden Fry and Kirk Ferentz. The 1997 Hawkeyes posted three shutouts and ranked No. 4 nationally in scoring defense.
Bielema lettered from 1989-92 at Iowa after joining the program as a walk-on. He earned a scholarship after his first year and was a member of Iowa’s 1990 Big Ten championship team. A starter as a junior in 1991, he was a team co-captain as a senior. Bielema signed a free agent contract with the Seattle Seahawks and later completed his playing career with the Milwaukee Mustangs of the Arena Football League.
A 1992 graduate of Iowa with a degree in marketing, Bielema married the former Jen Hielsberg on March 10, 2012.