Illinois is hiring former Wisconsin and Arkansas coach Bret Bielema to direct its soccer program, the college announced Saturday.
Bielema, 50, has spent the previous 3 seasons as an NFL assistant, operating this season for its New York Giants following two years using all the New England Patriots. He’d expressed interest in returning to the school level and has been a candidate for openings this past year at the Michigan State and Colorado, and sooner in this cycle in Southern Miss, according to resources.
Bielema will get a six-year contract with Illinois using a beginning salary of $4.2 million.
Illinois, that initiated coach Lovie Smith last Sunday, also known as Buffalo trainer Lance Leipold, Oklahoma defensive coordinator Alex Grinch and Wisconsin defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard, amongst others, to replace Smith, who travelled 17-39 in five seasons in the school.
“That is about a opportunity to take Illinois into a degree — through my life I have seen them have success, and had some instances where they have had much success,” Bielema said Saturday on ESPN’s College GameDay.
He left after the 2012 Big Ten championship match for Arkansas, where he travelled 29-34 prior to being chased in 2017.
“Illinois and also the Big Ten is home for me, also that I can not be any more enthusiastic about the chance in front of me using all the Fighting Illini,” Bielema said in a prepared statement. “we would like to construct a program which makes Illini Nation pleased and recover the fire I’ve seen when Illinois wins”
He climbed up in Prophetstown, Illinois, also played defensive lineup at Iowa, assisting the Hawkeyes into a share of the Big Ten title in 1990 (Illinois also shared with the championship). Bielema began his coaching career at Iowa before going to Kansas State and then to Wisconsin, where he had been appointed the successor to Barry Alvarez after the 2005 season.
“Together with three Big Ten championships to his credit, few coaches could fit his familiarity withsuccess inside, the Big Ten Conference. In our discussions, it became clear to me he is a lifelong student who’s always seeking to grow and improve.”