Bret Bielema named head coach of Illinois
The Illinois Fighting Illini announced Saturday that Bielema would become the team’s new head coach, replacing the fired Lovie Smith. Bielema signed a six-year contract with a base salary of $4.2 million per year.
In a statement issued by the school, Bielema made clear that one of his priorities will be to keep recruits from Illinois from leaving the state.
“Illinois and the Big Ten is home for me, and I can’t be any more excited about the opportunity in front of me with the Fighting Illini,” Bielema said. “We want to build a program that makes Illini Nation proud and regain the passion that I’ve seen when Illinois wins. We want the young men playing football in the state of Illinois from Freeport to Cairo and from Quincy to Danville dreaming of wearing the Orange and Blue and playing at Memorial Stadium. I look forward to re-connecting with the high school coaches around the state making it clear we intend to keep our players home.”
Bielema, an Illinois native, had a highly successful run in the Big Ten previously. From 2006 to 2012, he went 68-24 at Wisconsin, guiding the team to three consecutive Rose Bowls. He most recently served as the linebackers coach for the New York Giants.
The former Arkansas coach has often been linked to Power 5 openings at schools in need of a rebuild, including another Big Ten program this past year. Now he’s finally landed one.