When it comes to being unfiltered, Wisconsin’s Bret Bielema is one of the few head coaches that will pretty much tell a member of the media what’s on his mind. While that was the case for the most part at the Big Ten’s media days Thursday, he did wander into the Land of Coach Speak when it came to one of the subject matters put before him.
After he was given his release from North Carolina State and following an extended courtship by multiple schools, Russell Wilson ultimately decided on the Badgers over Auburn — and football over baseball — and automatically upgraded UW’s quarterback position exponentially. Given the fact that Wilson was a long-time starter at his former school, it’s widely expected/assumed that he will be the Badgers’ starter in 2011.
While that will, barring an injury of course, absolutely be the case, Bielema refused to anoint the transfer. In his opening remarks, the coach mentioned the addition of Wilson, labeling him as “our potential starting quarterback.” Later, Bielema twice was asked about Wilson as the starter, and twice he deflected the questions.
“What Russell brings to the table is an opportunity for us as coaches to see what we can do,” Bielema said the first time he was asked about the new presumptive starter. “We’ll get him in fall camp, like every one of our players. We have 105 players coming to campus. We’ll see who can give us the best chance to win football games in the fall and figure it out from there.”
After a question about Northern Illinois, Bielema was asked if there was seriously a chance Wilson wouldn’t be the starter.
“Yeah, absolutely,” Bielema said, which I know was stated with a straight face as I watched it live. “I was very open with Russell during the recruiting process, You will have an opportunity to come in and show us what you can do. I think that’s one of the things that attracted him to our program. We were honest, truthful. My parents said if you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember what you said. That’s what we said, come in, have this opportunity, take full advantage of it, you’ll be the guy that reaps the rewards.
“I haven’t seen Russell Wilson compete one snap competitively in practice. I think I might know what will happen, but until it happens, that’s where we’re at.”
Bielema may have equivocated when it came to just who would be his starting QB, but he reverted to the real Bielema when it came to negative headlines in college football. Asked what it would take to get the college game back into a positive light, Bielema jumped at the opportunity to answer.
“You know what, that’s a great question,” Bielema said. “If I had a dream world, I would say hammer the guys that don’t do things right. To me in my profession, the only thing I get very frustrated about is when I know things go on that aren’t right, mainly in recruiting. That’s the biggest thing that comes across my desk. People are willingly and knowingly abusing rules and breaking things. To me, when you are consciously aware of abusing a rule, there’s no excuse for that. … But when you consciously break an NCAA rule, to me the only way to deter that is to get rid of people, or seriously hold programs accountable. That’s probably the number one thing I would love to see happen in the world of college football.”
Certainly Bielema wasn’t referring to a certain former Big Ten coach during the course of his answer, was he?