By now, you’ve heard the news that Brent Bielema has taken his pullover to the dirty (in the truest sense) south: Arkansas. Lured, presumably, by extra coin, Brent will have the pleasure of getting stomped by Saban, Miles, and Co. in the vaunted SEC. Losing the head coach that has taken the Badgers to now three consecutive Rose Bowls is devastating for the program, right? Not so fast.
On the surface, there is little doubt that Brent had a great amount of success in Badger red: 68-24 overall record in 7 seasons, including a 37-19 clip in the Big Ten. Back-to-back-to-back Rose Bowl berths, bowl appearances every year, and teams that continually appear in the top-25 annually. And he won the Big Ten Coach of the Year honors in 2006 when he led the team to a program record 12 wins. Gaudy numbers frankly. But, the numbers don’t reveal the whole story.
The key to Brent’s success is that he has beaten up on lesser programs en route to amassing these gaudy numbers. And his overall record against better programs are pedestrian for an alleged top-tier coach.
This is most notable in the fact that the Badgers have played one – let me repeat that, one – top-25 team during the pre-season slate of games. And that one team was the 21st ranked Fresno State in 2008. Yup, Fresno St. has been the “best” team the Badgers have faced heading into the season during Brent’s tenure.
The Badgers are 8-10 against ranked foes dating back to 2008. And Brent is 2-4 in bowl games (and would have been 2-5 had he coached through the Rose Bowl), including an unforgettable back-to-back stinging losses in the Rose Bowl. Not exactly impressive, is it?
But wait, there’s more to this point. Against the notable programs in the Big Ten – OSU, MSU, PSU, and Michigan (though UM was subject to the Rich Rodgriguez botched experiment during much of Brent’s tenure) – Brent’s record is similarly not impressive:
- OSU – 1-5
- MSU – 3-4
- PSU – 2-3
- UM – 3-2
The common criticisms of Brent have always been that he’s a poor game-day coach, insofar as his clock management, use of timeouts, and making adjustments. He was clearly out-coached in the last two Rose Bowls, particularly the TCU game. These shortcomings show the most when you play good programs with good coaches – evidenced by the less-than-stellar numbers above.
To his credit, Brent maintained status quo for a fringe-elite program that Alvarez had built from nothing. Though it seems easy to accomplish, ask Kansas State. And he did lead the Badgers to 3 Rose Bowls, all with players he had recruited. But, when you get past the overall numbers and take a deep look at what he accomplished at Wisconsin, losing Brent is not as detrimental to the program as many may think. And considering he’s willing to leave his team right before the Rose Bowl, well, don’t let the door hit you on your way out Brent!