Bret Bielema

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Bret Bielema
refer to caption
Bielema in 2015
New York Giants
Position:Outside linebackers coach & senior defensive assistant
Personal information
Born: (1970-01-13) January 13, 1970 (age 50)
Prophetstown, Illinois
Career information
Career history
As player:
As coach:
Career highlights and awards
Head coaching record
Career:NCAA: 97–58 (.626)

Bret Arnold Bielema (/ˈbləmɑː/; born January 13, 1970) is an American football coach who is currently the outside linebackers coach and senior defensive assistant for the New York Giants of the National Football League (NFL). He is a former head football coach of the University of Arkansas, ending with a 29–34 record. Bielema also served as head football coach at University of Wisconsin–Madison from 2006 to 2012, achieving a 68–24 record.

Playing career[edit]

Bielema played college football as a defensive lineman at the University of Iowa under coach Hayden Fry from 1989 to 1992, serving as team captain his senior season. In his senior season, after Iowa beat Iowa State 21-7, Bielema approached Iowa State head coach Jim Walden for a post-game handshake and said "You’re a big prick. It’s been a pleasure kicking your ass the last five years" (Iowa State had never beaten Iowa during Bielema's tenure with the team). The moment caused considerable stir, with University of Iowa officials reprimanding Bielema and sending an official letter of apology to Walden.[1] Bielema graduated from Iowa with a bachelor's degree in marketing. He went on to play for the Milwaukee Mustangs, a team in the Arena Football League.

College coaching career[edit]


In his first season as head coach of the Wisconsin Badgers in 2006, Bielema's team ended the regular season 11–1 (7–1 in Big Ten Conference play). With a 14–0 victory over San Diego State on September 16, 2006, Bielema became the third Wisconsin head coach to win the first three games of his career.[2] Later, with a 24–3 win over Purdue on October 21, Bielema tied the record for most wins by a first-year coach at UW with seven. The other two coaches to complete this feat were Philip King in 1896 and William Juneau in 1912.[3] A 30–24 victory over the Fighting Illini on October 28, Bielema became the first coach in Wisconsin history to win eight games in his first season.[4] He then extended the record with his ninth victory on November 4, defeating the Penn State Nittany Lions, 13–3.[5] With a 24–21 victory over the Iowa Hawkeyes on November 11, Bielema became the first head coach in Big Ten history to win ten games in his first season.[6] With the 35–3 defeat of the University at Buffalo on November 18, 2006, Bielema became the first coach in UW history to win 11 games in the regular season.[7] After a 17–14 victory over the Arkansas Razorbacks in the Capital One Bowl on January 1, 2007, he became the third coach in NCAA history to win 12 games in his rookie season, finishing 12–1.

Bielema coached Wisconsin to victories in 17 of his first 18 games. That represents the third-best start to a head coaching career in Big Ten history. Michigan's Fielding H. Yost, who went 55–0–1 from 1901 to 1905, and Ohio State's Urban Meyer, who won 24 straight games to begin his Big Ten career had better starts. Unlike Bielema, Yost and Meyer both had established head coaching resumes prior to their Big Ten tenures.

On October 16, 2010, Bielema's Badgers defeated #1-ranked Ohio State, 31–18, in Madison. It was Wisconsin's first victory over a #1-ranked team since 1981 when the Badgers upset Michigan. The victory against the Buckeyes would be his only one as he was 1-5 against Ohio State.

Bielema is the only coach in Wisconsin history to lose consecutive Rose Bowls.

Bielema was named a finalist for the 2010 Bear Bryant Award which is given to college football's Coach of the Year. The other finalists were Chris Ault of Nevada, Gene Chizik of Auburn, Mark Dantonio of Michigan State, Jim Harbaugh of Stanford, Chip Kelly of Oregon, Gary Patterson of TCU, Bobby Petrino of Arkansas, and Mike Sherman of Texas A&M.[8] The award was given to Chizik.


On December 4, 2012, it was announced that Bielema was leaving Wisconsin to become the head coach of the Arkansas Razorbacks.[9][10] He left partly to coach in the Southeastern Conference and partly because he felt that his assistant coaches were not being paid enough.[11] Bielema replaced John L. Smith, who had coached Arkansas to a 4-8 record during the 2012 season after Bobby Petrino had been fired eight months earlier.[12]

Bielema's first season at Arkansas resulted in an overall record of 3-9, including 0-8 in the Southeastern Conference.[13] Bielema inherited a roster depleted of talent and lacking in development under lame-duck Coach Smith. Bielema's starting quarterback also suffered a throwing shoulder injury, which limited his ability the entire season. It was the Razorbacks' worst SEC record since entering the conference in 1992 and their first winless in-conference season since 1942, when they were a member of the Southwest Conference.[14][15]

Bielema's second season saw significant improvement, as Arkansas finished 7–6. Bielema won his first two SEC games in dominating fashion in November, beating #17 LSU by a score of 17–0 and #8 Ole Miss by a score of 30–0 to achieve bowl eligibility.[16][17] Though Arkansas lost its remaining conference game against Missouri, the Razorbacks were still the first unranked team in college football history to shut out two consecutive ranked opponents.[18] Bielema led Arkansas to a Texas Bowl victory in the postseason, defeating Texas handily, 31–7.[19]

In Bielema's third season, the team suffered the loss of returning 1,190-yard starting running back Jonathan Williams before the season. Breaking in a new offensive coordinator and adjusting to losing three NFL drafted defensive players up front, the Razorbacks got off to a slow start, losing to Toledo and Texas Tech in the non-conference and started 2–4.[20][21] Bielema then caught fire in the second half of the season, going 5–1 over the final six games, losing the one game to Mississippi State on a missed field goal.[22] Bielema ended the year by defeating one of his former mentors, Bill Snyder, in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl, as Arkansas dispatched Kansas State, 45–23, to finish the season with a record of 8–5.[23]

Bielema's fourth season was a topsy-turvy campaign that ended with two embarrassing defeats at the hands of Missouri in the regular season finale and Virginia Tech in the 2016 Belk Bowl. The former saw his team blow a 17-point halftime lead and the latter was a 24-point blown halftime lead, which was the largest for Arkansas since at least 1952.[24] Beating Missouri would have resulted in Bret Bielema improving his regular season record every year at Arkansas. The losses led to the replacement of Defensive Coordinator Robb Smith with former Iowa State head coach Paul Rhoads, and other staff changes pointing to a change to a 3-4 defensive scheme.[25]

Bielema was the highest paid state employee in Arkansas with a salary reported at $4,200,000.[26]

On November 24, 2017, Bielema was fired after five seasons as Arkansas's head coach following a 48–45 loss at home to the Missouri Tigers. According to Bielema, he was dismissed while he was coming off the field.[27]

NFL coaching career[edit]

New England Patriots[edit]

Prior to the 2018 NFL season, Bielema was hired by the New England Patriots as a defensive consultant to head coach Bill Belichick.[28] Bielema was promoted ahead of the 2019 season to defensive line coach.[29]

New York Giants[edit]

On January 21, 2020, the Giants hired Bielema as their Outside Linebackers Coach and Senior Assistant.[30]

Coaching tree[edit]

Head coaching record[edit]

Year Team Overall Conference Standing Bowl/playoffs Coaches# AP°
Wisconsin Badgers (Big Ten Conference) (2006–2012)
2006 Wisconsin 12–1 7–1 T–2nd W Capital One 5 7
2007 Wisconsin 9–4 5–3 4th L Outback 21 24
2008 Wisconsin 7–6 3–5 T–6th L Champs Sports
2009 Wisconsin 10–3 5–3 T–4th W Champs Sports 16 16
2010 Wisconsin 11–2 7–1 T–1st L Rose 8 7
2011 Wisconsin 11–3 6–2 1st (Leaders) L Rose 11 10
2012 Wisconsin 8–5 4–4 3rd (Leaders) Rose 23‡
Wisconsin: 68–24 37–19 ‡Did not coach bowl game.
Arkansas Razorbacks (Southeastern Conference) (2013–2017)
2013 Arkansas 3–9 0–8 7th (Western)
2014 Arkansas 7–6 2–6 7th (Western) W Texas
2015 Arkansas 8–5 5–3 T–3rd (Western) W Liberty
2016 Arkansas 7–6 3–5 T–5th (Western) L Belk
2017 Arkansas 4–8 1–7 7th (Western)
Arkansas: 29–34 11–29
Total: 97–58
      National championship         Conference title         Conference division title or championship game berth

*Ohio State was the Big Ten Leaders Division champion, but third place Wisconsin represented the division in the Big Ten Championship Game due to the fact that Ohio State and second place Penn State were both ineligible from post-season play by the NCAA.
‡Bielema left for Arkansas before the bowl game and the ranking reflects the team's ranking at the time of Bielema's departure.

Personal life[edit]

Bielema announced on April 1, 2011 that he was engaged to his girlfriend, Jen Hielsberg. They were married March 10, 2012 in Madison.[31][32] Their daughter, Briella, was born in 2017.

Arkansas sports radio personality Bo Mattingly debuted a series featuring Bielema entitled 'Being Bret Bielema' on February 25, 2016.[33]


  1. ^ Morehouse, Marc (November 13, 2008). "Badgers, Gophers grinding the axe". Wordpress. Retrieved February 19, 2020.
  2. ^ Archived from the original on March 13, 2007. Retrieved September 21, 2006. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  3. ^ Archived from the original on September 27, 2007. Retrieved October 21, 2006. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  4. ^ Archived from the original on September 27, 2007. Retrieved October 28, 2006. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  5. ^ Archived from the original on December 14, 2006. Retrieved November 6, 2006. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  6. ^ "BIG TEN NOTEBOOK; Bielema quietly has superb first year". Minneapolis Star-Tribune  – via HighBeam Research (subscription required). November 17, 2006. Archived from the original on January 13, 2016. Retrieved December 4, 2012.
  7. ^ "UW Earns First-Ever 11-Win Regular Season".
  8. ^ "Coach of the Year Finalists". Bear Bryant Awards. Archived from the original on December 20, 2010. Retrieved February 19, 2020.
  9. ^ "Wisconsin's Bielema hired as Arkansas coach". Associated Press. December 4, 2012.
  10. ^ Breece, Chris (December 4, 2012). "University To Introduce New Coach Bielema Wednesday". 5 News Online. Retrieved February 19, 2020.
  11. ^ Wolfley, Bob (December 5, 2012). "Arkansas coach Bielema says pay for his assistants was an issue at Wisconsin". Milwaukee Wisconsin Journal Sentinel. Retrieved February 19, 2020.
  12. ^ "Arkansas Razorbacks: Bret Bielema named new head football coach". Ozarks Sports Zone. Archived from the original on December 3, 2013. Retrieved November 29, 2013.
  13. ^ "2013 Southeastern Conference Year Summary". College Football at Retrieved February 19, 2020.
  14. ^ "Arkansas Razorbacks Football Record By Year". College Football at Retrieved February 19, 2020.
  15. ^ "1942 Southwest Conference Year Summary". College Football at Retrieved February 19, 2020.
  16. ^ "LSU at Arkansas Box Score, November 15, 2014". College Football at Retrieved February 19, 2020.
  17. ^ "Ole Miss at Arkansas Box Score, November 22, 2014". College Football at Retrieved February 19, 2020.
  18. ^ "Arkansas at Missouri Box Score, November 28, 2014". College Football at Retrieved February 19, 2020.
  19. ^ "Texas Bowl - Arkansas vs Texas Box Score, December 29, 2014". College Football at Retrieved February 19, 2020.
  20. ^ "Toledo vs Arkansas Box Score, September 12, 2015". College Football at Retrieved February 19, 2020.
  21. ^ "Texas A&M vs Arkansas Box Score, September 26, 2015". College Football at Retrieved February 19, 2020.
  22. ^ "Mississippi State ekes out crazy 51-50 win over Arkansas". Saturday Down South. November 21, 2015. Retrieved February 19, 2020.
  23. ^ "Liberty Bowl - Kansas State vs Arkansas Box Score, January 2, 2016". College Football at Retrieved February 19, 2020.
  24. ^ Hutchinson, Andrew (January 2, 2017). "The Hutch Report: Bielema's second half collapses". Retrieved February 19, 2020.
  25. ^ "Rhoads Promoted To Defensive Coordinator". Arkansas Razorbacks. January 18, 2017. Retrieved February 19, 2020.
  26. ^ Michaels, Matthew. "College football and basketball coaches are the highest-paid public employees — here are the biggest paydays". Business Insider. Retrieved February 19, 2020.
  27. ^ Selig, Mark (November 24, 2017). "Arkansas' Bret Bielema says he was fired as he left the field following loss". The Washington Post.
  28. ^ Reiss, Mike (July 29, 2018). "Bret Bielema, popular among former Razorbacks and Badgers, now with Patriots". Retrieved February 5, 2019.
  29. ^ "Bret Bielema eager to serve as Patriots defensive line coach". 247Sports. Retrieved February 19, 2020.
  30. ^ "Giants hiring former Patriots DL coach Bret Bielema". Retrieved February 19, 2020.
  31. ^ Mulhern, Tom (April 1, 2011). "UW football: Bielema announces engagement". Retrieved November 2, 2011.
  32. ^ "For Bielema family, toughness a trait passed from mother to son". University of Wisconsin. June 25, 2011. Archived from the original on September 8, 2011. Retrieved November 2, 2011.
  33. ^ "BEING Bret Bielema". Archived from the original on February 26, 2016. Retrieved February 19, 2020.

External links[edit]