clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

‘I found my home’: Bielema wants Illini to be final coaching stop

Illinois’ head coach made his intentions perfectly clear at Big Ten Media Days.

Big Ten Football Media Days Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

INDIANAPOLIS — Bret Bielema is approaching year three as head coach of the Illinois Fighting Illini. The football program has experienced hasty improvement in each of the past two seasons, and expectations have increased as a result.

Coach Bielema addressed those expectations — and perhaps put some fans’ minds at ease — during Big Ten Media Days in Indianapolis Wednesday.

The Illini finished 8-5 in 2022 and were in the mix for a Big Ten West title. Bielema has successfully raised the ceiling of the program, and Illinois fans have responded with renewed optimism — it was announced Wednesday that more than 9,500 new season tickets had been sold.

NCAA Football: ReliaQuest Bowl-Illinois at Mississippi State
Bret Bielema helped lead the Fighting Illini to their first bowl game since 2019 and first winning season since 2011.
Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

When asked whether success would be measured in wins and losses, Bielema said: “Success doesn’t depend on if I’m gonna be the returning Big Ten champ or if I’m coming back as a guy that won a bowl game. Our seasonal success is based on one premise: we get better every week. If we’re better in game 12 than we were in game one, we’re gonna be a successful team.”

With regards to NIL and player movement through the transfer portal, Bielema showed his usual candor (fast forward to the 1:43 mark of the tweet below):

Bielema continued: “My opinion is this — it’s been awesome. To have the NIL opportunity...these guys are making some money that’s allowing them to stay in school, be comfortable, let their family come to games and be a college football player, and now that money may be rewarded tenfold. The NIL stuff that gets frustrating is when it’s getting used in recruiting, and that goes on, but it’s part of the game we’re dealing with right now.”

Bielema also gushed about his relationship with athletic director Josh Whitman and commented on his future in Chambana:

“I didn’t want to go into a situation where I didn’t think it could be sustained. I wanted this to be my last rodeo, I signed a contract recently that literally has a no-compete with anybody in the Big Ten ‘cause I found my home; I know where I want to go.”

Oh...and just in case you were wondering about his cinematic preferences, Bret Bielema had plenty to say about that, too.

That’s our head coach. This is Illini football. Bring it on.