Less than a week after firing Lovie Smith, Illinois athletic director Josh Whitman has his man. Former Wisconsin and Arkansas coach Bret Bielema is now in charge of the Illini football program. The social media reaction to the Saturday morning news was vast:
«I’m doing an interview on GameDay in a car! 2020 can’t get any more insane.»Bret Bielema really called into the show from his car after being hired as Illinois’ new head coach 😂 pic.twitter.com/ZKRMMcRVxC
— College GameDay (@CollegeGameDay) December 19, 2020
Bielema’s name emerged Friday as the leading candidate. I thought Leipold would get more of a look but Illinois had zeroed in on the ex-Arkansas/Wisconsin coach. A few other coordinator candidates had been in the mix, too. Bielema gets 6-year contract, starting at $4.2 million. https://t.co/pQQAOe7e1L
— Adam Rittenberg (@ESPNRittenberg) December 19, 2020
Bret Bielema was 11-29 in SEC play at the University of Arkansas and now he gets 4.2 million a year from Illinois? Really?
— David Kaplan (@thekapman) December 19, 2020
He’s baaaaaaaack https://t.co/rAenKFUTQc
— Jim Polzin (@JimPolzinWSJ) December 19, 2020
Good news for Illinois fans: Bret Bielema has been with Bill Belichick the last three years and that usually guarantees success for a head coach.
— Myron Medcalf (@MedcalfByESPN) December 19, 2020
— Justin Hardee Sr. (@jhardee_19) December 19, 2020
— Anthony Herron (@BigAntHerron) December 19, 2020
The Big Ten West has never had a better collection of coaches. Then when you throw Indiana’s Tom Allen and Iowa State’s Matt Campbell out there, the entire region is 🔥🔥🔥 https://t.co/QYsXhL6BKg
— Scott Dochterman (@ScottDochterman) December 19, 2020
Hope this is more like his Wisconsin tenure than his Arkansas one https://t.co/dLc9r82sCQ
— Erik Hall 🎄 (@HallErik) December 19, 2020
Bret Bielema will be the new head coach of Illinois, and he will be paid $4.2 million a year to do it. Talk about the bank heist of the century! $4.2 million? Who was Illinois bidding against for Bret freakin’ Bielema? Get his agent a raise!!!
— Aaron Torres (@Aaron_Torres) December 19, 2020
— Juice Williams (@juicewilliamsqb) December 19, 2020
— HADDY (@JIHADWARD17) December 19, 2020
— Reilly O’Toole (@ReillyOT4) December 19, 2020
Excited to get to play for Coach Bielema! https://t.co/dbZUEZSNkP
— Broderick Wisecarver (@bwise9869) December 19, 2020
— Michael Szwaja (@ChiSportsTweetr) December 19, 2020
Many of my Hawkeye fans telling me about Coach Bielema’s tattoo…..I’m sure it’s a first for an Illini coach pic.twitter.com/KYgt4qUF5w
— Jim Mattson (@hoijim) December 19, 2020
The amount of hate on Illinois forum boards towards Bielema is unreal. The guy can coach and is hungry for another chance. From Illinois, a B1G guy, this is a great hire
— Brandon Wildman (@brandon_wildman) December 19, 2020
I like the Bielema hire for Illinois. He had a great run in the Big Ten. Natural fit in the state & the Midwest. He’ll need to hire the right OC and have a clear identity on offense. That’s where things went sideways at Arkansas.
— Dave Matter (@Dave_Matter) December 19, 2020
Everything late this week had pointed to Bielema or Buffalo’s Lance Leipold. Illinois had kicked the tires on a few sitting DCs, but in the end Josh Whitman, who didn’t hire a search firm, ran a relatively low-drama search. https://t.co/vJv3UnsX4X
— Matt Fortuna (@Matt_Fortuna) December 19, 2020
If Bret Bielema works, neat! Illinois becomes decent.If he fails, hey, new AD.
— Mark Primiano (@Doctor1Hundred) December 19, 2020
Illinois hires Bret Bielema,returning him to the Big Ten, which he won three times at Wisconsin. Not much has worked for the Illini of late but they should be competitive here. https://t.co/ngMwSo6P4z
— Dan Wetzel (@DanWetzel) December 19, 2020
Bielema fits much better in the Big Ten than the SEC. I was thrilled when he left Wisconsin but have come to realize there were elements of his coaching that I under-appreciated. Program is on the upswing, but he won Big Ten 3x and Badgers haven’t won it since he left.
— Ryan Glasspiegel (@sportsrapport) December 19, 2020
Bret Bielema lands big-money contract to return to college ranks with University of Illinois.Was inevitable. Bielema had interviewed with several college programs this year & has pedigree.Giants pivot again as staff changes continue.https://t.co/CHcYCtR0f3
— Pat Leonard (@PLeonardNYDN) December 19, 2020
Sense I get from Giants’ perspective: Joe Judge not blindsided by this. I don’t think anyone is. Happened fast. Bielema up front about his college interest + Judge did what he could to help in that regard.Defensive assistant Jody Wright will take on OLB role, source confirms.
— Art Stapleton (@art_stapleton) December 19, 2020