The easy way to sum up Bret Bielema's six-year career as Wisconsin's head coach is to look at the numbers. Sixty wins, six bowl appearances, five times ranked in the final AP Top 25, two Big Ten titles and two trips to the Rose Bowl.
Not as easy to quantify but just as important as the numbers are the adjectives people use when they talk about the Badger football team under Bielema, words like "tough," "smart," "physical," "aggressive," "punishing," and "relentless." Those are the characteristics that have propelled UW to three consecutive 10-win seasons, including back-to-back Big Ten titles and Rose Bowl appearances.
Under Bielema's watch, UW has extended its school-record bowl streak to 10 seasons, the second-longest active streak in the Big Ten and tied for the ninth-longest streak in the country. Bielema's career winning percentage of .759 (60-19) is the fourth-best in the country among FBS coaches with at least five seasons of experience. UW's winning percentage over that span ranks second in the Big Ten and ninth in the country. Wisconsin is also 33-15 (.688) in Big Ten games during Bielema's tenure. Despite coaching just six seasons, Bielema already ranks third in school history in career victories.
In Bielema's six seasons as head coach, UW has had 16 players earn All-America honors, including 10 first-team All-Americans. UW players have also won the Outland Trophy twice, the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award and the Lott IMPACT Trophy and been finalists for the Heisman Trophy, Doak Walker Award, John Mackey Award, Manning Award, Rimington Trophy and Ted Hendricks Award. In the last five years, 16 Badgers have been taken in the NFL Draft, including three first-rounders.
Bielema, who served as Wisconsin's defensive coordinator for two seasons before becoming head coach, has helped UW amass a 50-4 record at Camp Randall Stadium in his eight years in Madison. That is the third-best home record in the country over that span. The Badgers won their first 16 home games under Bielema, the second-longest home winning streak in school history, and enter 2012 riding a 16-game home winning streak. That is the second-longest active streak in the country.
In his first two seasons as head coach, Bielema led UW 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.
Last season, UW won the inaugural Big Ten Football Championship Game, defeating Michigan State, 42-39, to advance to the Rose Bowl for the second-straight season. It was just the third time in the last 19 years that a Big Ten team advanced to the Rose Bowl in back-to-back season (Wisconsin also did so in 1999 and 2000).
The Badgers, who won the Leaders Division, fished the season with an 11-3 record. For just the third time in school history, Wisconsin recorded 11 regular-season victories. The only other 11-win regular seasons were in 2006, Bielema's first season at the helm, and 2010. UW has won at least 10 games eight times in school history and Bielema has been a part of five of those teams (four as head coach, one as defensive coordinator).
Wisconsin's high-powered offense ranked sixth in the country in scoring in 2011 and was led by QB Russell Wilson and RB Montee 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 (along with offensive linemen Peter Konz and Kevin Zeitler), was a finalist for the Heisman Trophy and tied Barry Sanders' FBS record for TDs scored in a season.
The Badgers had a school-record nine players earn first-team All-Big Ten honors. In addition, six different players earned All-America mention.
In 2010, the Badgers won a share of their 12th Big Ten championship in school history and first since 1999. UW tied a school record with seven conference victories. The Badgers earned their seventh-ever trip to the Rose Bowl, and their first since 1999.
UW finished the season with an 11-2 record and ranked seventh 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 (41.5 points per game). Their 45.2 points per game in conference play was second-best 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 Montee Ball ran for 996.
Wisconsin was the most disciplined team in the country in 2010, leading the nation in both fewest turnovers (9) and fewest penalties per game (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.
The Badgers 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.
In the Big Ten, 18 players received some sort of All-Big Ten recognition, including five who picked up first-team honors. 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 has translated to the classroom as well. UW had a record-tying 22 members of the football team honored as Academic All-Big Ten in 2010, the second consecutive season Wisconsin had 22 players named Academic All-Big Ten. Before 2009, the school record was 19, set in Bielema's second season.
In 2009, UW 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. Its 5-3 record in conference play was good for a share of fourth place. After not being ranked to start the season, UW finished the year ranked 16th in both polls.
In addition to the team success, a number of Badger individual 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 through a midseason slump to qualify for their school-record seventh consecutive bowl game. UW began the season 3-0, including a road win at No. 21 Fresno State. That was Wisconsin's first road win over a ranked non-conference opponent since 1958. Following that victory, UW lost four straight games to open the Big Ten season. The Badgers rebounded, however, winning four of their last five regular-season games in order to qualify for the Champs Sports Bowl. Included in that streak was a wild win over rival Minnesota that allowed UW to keep possession of Paul Bunyan's Axe for the fifth straight season.
Bielema took the Badgers to New Year's Day bowl games in each of 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. Two Wisconsin players -- TE Travis Beckum and K Taylor Mehlhaff -- earned All-America honors.
Bielema guided the Badgers to a 12-1 overall record and 7-1 mark in the Big Ten (good for a second-place tie with Michigan) 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.
Bielema's 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 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; UW limited the high-powered Tigers to just 236 yards of total offense.
During Bielema's two years guiding the Badger defense, two players (DE Erasmus James and DB Jim Leonhard) earned first-team All-America honors and two others (DT Anttaj Hawthorne and DB Scott Starks) 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 former head coach Bill Snyder from 2002-03. The Wildcats were 22-6 during Bielema's time there and finished in the top 10 nationally (in both 2002 and 2003) 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 coached Fred Barr (first-team All-Big Ten), Vernon Rollins and Matt Hughes (both honorable mention All-Big Ten) at Iowa.
Bielema earned four letters (1989-92) after joining the Iowa football 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. Bielema has participated in 10 bowl games as a player or coach.
A 1992 graduate of Iowa with a bachelor's degree in marketing, Bielema was born in Prophetstown, Ill., on Jan. 13, 1970. He and his wife, Jen, were married in March 2012 and live in Madison.
Information courtesy: UW Badgers Athletics
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