Holmes’ Blog: This is why Bielema left Wisconsin for Arkansas
The speculation is already hot and furious….why did Bret Bielema, who ended every interview with “On Wisconsin”, leave Madison to take over as head football coach at Arkansas? The easy answer is money….alot of money. When you go from about $2.5 million to more than $4 million that is alot of money. Yeah, $2.5 million is a good living but that still is a nice bump in pay. That’s not it however. How about the challenge of coaching in the SEC, the toughest football league outside the NFL? Sure, that might be a good reason but it’s not it either.
The reason Bielema is heading to Fayetteville is because of love and respect. After succeeding Barry Alvarez as coach, Bielema has a fantastic 68-24 record and just secured a third straight trip to the Rose Bowl, something that hasn’t happened for a Big Ten team in over three decades. With that kind of record you’d think he’d be beloved in this state and have a road or something named after him. Not even close. Everytime the Badgers lost this season I’d see “Bye, Bye Bielema” on twitter or facebook or whatever social media. For years if you went to the chat that Journal-Sentinel Badgers’ beat writer Jeff Potrykus does every Monday night you’d see every Bielema basher come out….and there were more than a few of them. They all saw the wins but there always was a “but….” For whatever reason, there is a sizable minority of Wisconsin football fans that never got on the Bielema Bus. They came out and were very happy when the news broke yesterday. I was and am not as happy as they are. I’ve had some issues with Bielema over the years but the bottom line is he is one of the premiere college coaches out there. The Badgers have not been as successful as they have been the last seven years because Bielema took over the Alvarez machine that runs itself. Many won’t agree or like this….but Bielema took the Badgers to another level. The man can recruit and especially in the last couple of years, started to bring in the type of athlete…the four star recruits….that Wisconsin didn’t get even during the best of the Alvarez years. The new coach will have alot to sell recruits but will be hard pressed to be as effective closing the deal as Bielema has been.
The love just hasn’t been there for a coach as successful as Bielema and you know he has felt it. On madison.com this crystalizes what I think pushed Bielema south “Former UW defensive tackle Patrick Butrym said he doesn’t think Bielema always received the credit he deserves from Badgers fans.
“I think in the past, he’s kind of gotten a bad rap and people have kind of unnecessarily brought the hammer down on him,” Butrym said. “I think he’s a great coach; I think he’s a great guy.”
Bottom line…Bielema is gone because a sizable portion of the Badger faithful always thought they could do better.
I hope the Bielema bashers who think this is a good thing are right. The incredible success the Wisconsin football program has had over the last two decades has been alot of fun to watch and cover. However, I don’t think they are right. Unless Barry Alvarez hits a home run on this hire, the program will step back. Wisconsin going to the Rose Bowl on a regular basis isn’t an automatic thing. Those fans who don’t remember what it was to have a coach who really deserved the criticism like Don Morton make get a reality check over the next number of years. I truly believe Wisconsin could have had Bielema for as long as he coached college football not by offering more money or a bigger challenge or anything else but a little more love and respect. Too many fans weren’t willing to give that and now we will see if they were right in thinking Wisconsin can do better than the guy in the wind breaker.