Wisconsin football coach's departure surprises Janesville fans
JANESVILLE Some people thought he should stay.
Others thought he should go.
And still others said, "Bret who?"
On Tuesday, the UW-Madison Athletic Department announced that head football coach Bret Bielema was leaving to take the same job at Arkansas.
Local Badger fans were surprised—but not terribly distressed—over his departure.
Patrick "Wiggy" Wygans received the news shortly after buying poster board for his bar's new Rose Bowl display.
"I had no idea this was coming," said Wygans, who owns Wiggy's, 9 N. Parker Drive, Janesville.
Bielema was Athletic Director Barry Alvarez's handpicked successor. In his seven years at Wisconsin, Bielema chalked up a 68-24 record. This January would have marked his third trip to the Rose Bowl with the Badgers.
Wygans has had Badger season tickets for 33 years, and his bar is devoted to Wisconsin sports.
Even though he couldn't foresee Bielema's departure, Wygans noted that several of the Badgers' key coaches, including offensive coordinator Paul Chryst, left the team last summer.
And then there was Bielema's record.
"He got the rap that he couldn't win the big one," Wygans said.
Doesn't taking a team to three Rose Bowl games in a row mean anything?
Sure, but …
The Badgers are going to Pasadena this year, but their overall record is 8-5, Wygans pointed out. Wisconsin will be the first five-loss team to play in the Rose Bowl, and they qualified for the Big 10 Championship Game only because Ohio State and Penn State were ineligible.
Badger fan Dustin Becker said he, too, was surprised by the news.
"It kind of caught me off guard," Becker said. "I thought he was doing a good job."
Other fans echoed those sentiments.
Bob Stuhr of Janesville said he thought Bielema was doing a decent job.
"It'd be nice if he stuck around a couple of years," Stuhr said.
Others said last summer's exodus from the Wisconsin coaching staff should have been a warning.
"I wouldn't mind seeing Chryst come back," Wygans said.
Tuesday night, however, the Associated Press reported Chryst saying he was "committed to Pittsburgh."
Tom Benton of Janesville said he'd like to see Bielema "go out with a Rose Bowl win."
That won't happen.
After a team meeting Tuesday, running back Montee Ball told the Wisconsin State Journal that Bielema would not coach the Badgers on Jan. 1.