Reflecting on Bielema’s leaving
I’m not a UW-Madison alum, unlike Gazette Editor Scott Angus, but like Scott, I have mixed feelings on Badger football coach Bret Bielema leaving for Arkansas. Neither of us saw this one coming.
Today’s Gazette printed the Michael Hunt column from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, and Hunt hits a lot of the same thoughts I have. Hunt uses many clichés: “Be careful what you wish for.” “You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone.” “Better the devil you know.”
Yet Bielema’s record in bowl games is only 2-4. Yes, he led the Badgers to an unprecedented third straight Rose Bowl game this January, but he lost the last two.
Yes, his record is a sparkling 68-24, yet his best record was 12-1 his first season at the helm using players recruited by his predecessor, current UW Athletic Director Barry Alvarez. Bielema also has failed to advance the team to the next level.
Bielema has a history of immaturity on and off the field. His unsportsmanlike conduct penalty a few years ago cost the Badgers a big victory at Michigan State.
Much of the team’s struggles this year involved lack of quality quarterbacking, the fact that Jared Abbrederis is the lone consistent threat at wide receiver and equally inconsistent placekicking. Bielema might be considered a player’s coach, but those shortcomings suggest recruiting deficiencies. Likewise, the fact he had to fire a new offensive line coach early this season says nothing good for his instincts in hiring the guy in the first place.
I recently visited an uncle two days after the UW lost an overtime game for the third time this season, the one at Penn State. My uncle’s brother-in-law was just leaving as I arrived, and this always vocal sports fan was spewing venom about Bielema. His short rant included the suggestion the Badgers never should have let Paul Chryst get away.
If Alvarez can somehow lure Chryst, the former UW assistant, back from Pittsburgh after only one season, perhaps Bielema’s departure will indeed be a blessing. Of course, there’s no guarantee that Chryst would be successful.
Angus and I can still remember those games from our boyhood when UW would lose to Ohio State by scores like 60-3. Badger fans have become spoiled under both Alvarez and Bielema. We only hope we’ll enjoy continued success.