American college football has several names etched in its history. From players such as Jim Brown, Herschel Walker and Reggie Bush to coaches like Paul Bryant, George Welsh and Henry Sanders, many icons have emerged from this great sport. Its 150-year history has also brought several other names into that honoured list, including that of Bret Bielema with his many records.
In his almost three decades of coaching, the former defensive lineman is the 3rd coach in the history of the NCAA to win 12 games in his rookie season. He’s also the first coach in Wisconsin history to clinch eight wins in his first season and the first head coach in Big Ten history to win a total of ten games in his first season. Despite a rough finish for him and his Arkansas team at the 2017 season, the coach has a credible track record that puts him at the fore of college football coaching in America.
Where And How Did Bret Bielema Start?
Bret Bielema was born, Bret Arnold Bielema, on January 13, 1970, to parents Arnie and Marilyn Bielema. Growing up, he spent a greater part of his childhood in Prophetstown, Illinois, where he was raised alongside his two siblings Betsy and Brandi. Although details about his childhood, early education, parents or what they did for a living remains unclear, what’s no secret is that, shortly after graduating from high school, he proceeded to the University of Iowa to study for a degree in Marketing. But marketing was far from the only thing he did in college.
Bielema’s College Football Career
From 1989 to 1992, Bielema played as a defensive lineman on the college football team under coach Hayden Fry. Not only was he the team’s defensive lineman, he also served as its captain. Though Bielema has come a long way since his youthful years, there are some events that would hardly be forgotten for decades. One of such events happened at the close of his senior season. Following a match in which his team, Iowa, had beaten Iowa State 21-7, Bielema walked to then Iowa State head coach Jim Walden for a supposed after-game handshake. But the words he said would cause a stir over the next few weeks.
Bielema told the coach “You’re a big prick. It’s been a pleasure kicking your ass the last five years”. The reason is not farfetched. The Iowa team had beaten Iowa State for the five years that Bielema’s had been there.
What followed was a massive condemnation and an apology letter from the University of Iowa officials to coach Walden. After graduating from college, Bielema played for the Milwaukee Mustangs for two years before making the big transition.
The Big Move Into Coaching
Bielema’s coaching journey began in 1994 when he served as a graduate assistant for the Iowa Hawkeyes, under the mentorship of coach Hayden Fry. He served in this capacity until 1999 when he was made linebackers coach for the Hawkeyes. From 2002 to 2003, he served as a co-defensive coordinator for the Kansas State Wildcats. A year later he went higher in the career rung when he was appointed assistant coach of the Wisconsin Badgers and head coach of the team two years later in 2006.
After eight games as head coach of Wisconsin Badgers, Bret Bielema set a record for being the first coach of the team to win eight games straight in his first season. On January 21, 2007, he set another record. This time for being the third coach to win a maximum of 12 games in his first season. But that would not be his only feat at Wisconsin.
After securing a 35–3 win against the University at Buffalo in November 2006, Bielema became the first coach in Wisconsin’s history to ace 11 games in a regular season. By the following year, 2007, he led his team to a 17–14 victory against the Arkansas Razorbacks in the Capital One Bowl, thereby, becoming the third coach in NCAA history to ace 12 games in his rookie season.
In December 2012, after six years as head coach of the Wisconsin Badgers, Bielema moved on to become head coach of the Arkansas Razorbacks. According to sources, he had left partly due to the opportunity to coach at the Southeastern Conference and also because he was the reason that his assistant coaches were underpaid.
At Arkansas, Bielema took over from John L. Smith, who coached the team to a 4-8 record at the 2012 season. Although Bielema left Wisconsin on a pretty good record, for some reason, he could not replicate the same success at Arkansas. For one, his time at Arkansas Razorbacks was anything but impressive as he led them to their worst ever outing since 1992. The bad run continued for three more seasons until he was fired on November 24, 2017, right on the pitch, following a 48-45 loss to Missouri.
Joining the NFL
After his exit from the Arkansas Razorbacks in late 2017, Bielema has served as defensive consultant for New England Patriots of the NFL under head coach Bill Belichick. He was later elevated to the post of Defensive Line Coach. From January 21, 2020, Bielema began serving as Outside Linebackers Coach and Senior Assistant for the New York Giants.
Awards and Recognition
As head coach of Wisconsin Badgers, Bielema became a finalist for the 2010 Bear Bryant Award, alongside an award meant for college football’s Coach of the Year. The award went to coach Chizik of Auburn.
Asides that, Bielema has been named Super Bowl champion (LIII), Big Ten Coach of the Year (2006), Big Ten Leaders Division (2011) and three times Big Ten Champion (2010–2012). Surely that has translated into millions of dollars for the Illinois-born coach.
Being Bret Bielema is a TV series which ran on ESPNU. It focused on the behind-the-scenes details about the life of the former Arkansas Head Coach.
How Much Is He Worth Today?
As of the time of this writing, Brent Bielema’s worth is estimated at $10 million. During his tenure as Head Coach of the Arkansas Razorbacks, he was the highest-paid employee in Arkansas’ payroll, earning a whopping $4.2 million annually. At the time, he was the 9th highest-paid college football coach. He also received a $10 million buyout after he got sacked from the Arkansas Razorbacks. He shares a chunk of that wealth with his family. Who are they?
Who Does He Call Family?
Bret Bielema has been happily married to Jennifer Hielseberg since March 10, 2012. Hiesleberge is a model who later transitioned into the finance and business world. According to him, their relationship was formerly built on a lie.
As the story goes, they met at Wynn Casino in Las Vegas; Jennifer had accompanied her best friend on a date as a third wheel. The two got talking and Bielema introduced himself as an MBA History professor. After 4 months of dating, however, she found out he was a coach but couldn’t care less. They had gotten so attached to each other at the time.
They got engaged on April 1, 2011, and eventually tied the knot on March 10, 2012. In 2015, the couple was arrested in Oxford for having sex in public but the charges were dropped the following day after reaching an agreement with the police. Today they are proud parents to a beautiful girl christened Briella Nichole Bielema, born July 7, 2017, at exactly 4:44 AM.