CHAMPAIGN — Two days after hiring Bret Bielema as new head football coach, the University of Illinois introduced him at a virtual news conference Monday afternoon.
Listen to Bret Bielema’s introductory news conference here.
Bielema says one of his top priorities will be keeping the top high school football players in the state from going elsewhere.
“And I don’t care what size of school. I don’t care if it’s public or private, north, south, east, west, in the middle of the state,” Bielema said. “They will have contact with my staff. I will have all ten of my coaches be assigned to an area in the state of Illinois. That is our priority.”
Bielema grew up in Prophetstown, Illinois, about 40 miles northeast of the Quad Cities.
He comes to Illinois after three years as an NFL assistant coach for the New York Giants and New England Patriots. Prior to that he was a college head coach at Arkansas and Wisconsin.
Responding to a reporter’s question about rubbing people the wrong way when he was at Wisconsin, Bielema said he’s grown up a lot since first becoming a head coach nearly 15 years ago, but that he will always be himself.
“I think I’ll always be confident. I don’t mind walking in a room and letting people know it, but on the same account, the compassion in me has never changed or wavered,” Bielema said. “The way that I do things isn’t ever really going to change. It might be modified or adapted.”
Bielema has compiled a 97-58 record in eleven seasons as a college head coach, including a 68-24 record at Wisconsin from 2006-12.
The U of I said Saturday in a press release that Bielema signed a six-year contract with an annual salary starting at $4.2 million.