COACH BIELEMA: Great to be in Chicago. Going into my sixth year as a head coach, it's great to come down here and have an opportunity to meet with you, at least most of you, talk about Wisconsin football. We're really excited. Disappointed in the Rose Bowl loss.
To me as a head coach, I've noticed a significant increase just in media attention to our program and recruiting. It's been a fun ride to get to where we are right now.
We'll open up practice next Thursday. Because we are the first game of the college football season to kick off and open off against UNLV, it's brought a little bit more excitement to play a Thursday night game on national TV, just an added interest to go here in Chicago.
We'll play Illinois in Soldier Field for our third game, which I think a lot of not only north Illinois fans, but a lot of Badger fans will travel to that game and play a very quality opponent, national showcase again.
To start Big Ten play against Nebraska, a team that has won national championships, has built a strong reputation, when Jim Delaney made the decision to bring Nebraska into our league, bring that name and program, I've noticed it overall. I've noticed it in recruiting.
I can't tell you how many times I've had parents or recruits sitting in my office talking about the Big 10 Network and the exposure that it brings, to bring Nebraska in, and for us to be a part of the Leaders Division for the first time in college football history, to have the Big Ten split into two divisions, I'm very privileged, excited.
We have a lot of good players coming back. We had one addition with Russell Wilson as our potential starting quarterback to come into Madison and work with our guys all summer. It's a great time to be part of the Big Ten Conference.
With that, I'll open it up to easy questions.
THE MODERATOR: First easy question here on the left.
Q. Talk a little bit about Russell Wilson and what he brings to the program.
COACH BIELEMA: It's a work in progress. I came in the middle of spring. I had a fax on my desk. We get a lot of that, where kids want to talk to us about transfer opportunities. Russell Wilson jumped right in my head right away. I remember watching him on some games the past couple seasons. Reached out to my quarterback coach, offensive coordinator, he was aware of it as well. Just began the recruiting process.
I will say this. No matter how good a football player Russell Wilson is, the first thing I wanted to find out is what kind of person he is. I always say that in recruiting, you recruit your own problems. I wanted to make sure that I wasn't recruiting somebody that was going to potentially be a problem at Wisconsin. He's a stand-up guy, great character. Just a really, really neat kid. Began to evaluate, talk to him. Brought him in on his visit, had him meet with a lot of offensive players, skill and offensive linemen. Everybody after that visit was very encouraging to talk to about the way he handles himself and talks to other players.
Come full circle, he obviously picked Wisconsin. He was back on our campus within three or four days after that and has been there ever since. Because of NCAA rules that we follow, you can't be around him as a coach. You kind of have to let him do what he does. The players have been very positive. You'll have three of my guys here in the next couple days, they've been around him a lot more than I have.
What Russell brings to the table is an opportunity for us as coaches to see what we can do. We'll get him in fall camp, like every our player. 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.
Q. Any additional significance surrounding the Northern Illinois game?
COACH BIELEMA: One of my best friends, Dave Doeren and I have grown up in the coaching profession. Dave is a guy I thought after I had an opportunity to work with him for a couple months, would be a head coach someday. He's had an opportunity to do that the last couple years and stayed with us. The chance that Northern Illinois brought to him was too much to pass by, to bring Coach Kill, a guy I've respected. For us to play Northern Illinois in Chicago at Soldier Field is a pretty cool opportunity.
Northern Illinois has been so successful. To play a non-conference game in a pro stadium. They have a couple games before us, Kansas, that will bring national exposure for them as well.
I think it's neat because we have so many Badger fans in the Chicago area, for them to drive 30 or 40 minutes to the home stadium, it's pretty cool.
Q. You called Russell a potential starting quarterback. Is there seriously a chance he wouldn't be your starting quarterback?
COACH BIELEMA: Yeah, absolutely. 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.
Q. With just 11 returning starters, do you think you're young guys are ready to step up?
COACH BIELEMA: Well, I understand you guys have to cover our program and everybody has to write what they write. I as a head coach focus on what I have; I don't focus on what I lost. For instance, J.J. Watt was a great player. When we lost him, we lost a player that was very productive.
As coaches we always concentrate on we're not trying to replace J.J. Watt, we're trying to replace his production. Who gives us an opportunity to do that. Practically we've look at our current players, have an opportunity to work with them and see where we can go.
One of the great things I learned during the Coach Alvarez time, when I was the defensive coordinator, he talks about one thing that never graduates is tradition. Players leave, you pat them on the back. I called all my guys yesterday that signed NFL free agency contracts, excited for them. You concentrate your efforts on the guys you have coming back. Those guys that won a Big Ten championship a year ago are back with us, the guys that weren't NFL eligible.
It's fun for me as a head coach to see this transition, to see guys that you have recruited, that you've worked with on a daily basis, to see them step into these roles is a lot of fun for me. That's how I look at it.
Q. Last year you cleared some hurdles, beat Ohio State, won the Big Ten championship for the first time in 11 years for Wisconsin, made it to the Rose Bowl. Where do you think things are in terms of Wisconsin, that brand, your football program right now?
COACH BIELEMA: You know, those are great things, but they're a part of history. People write about history. What you do is what you do. Now what I want to do is concentrate on the future history of our program. I want to concentrate on what our guys are going to be able to do this upcoming season.
I couldn't be more excited. To be so privileged to be a part of our program, Wisconsin is what it is. We're not real sexy. I always say we're not the first girl taken to the prom, but we're not the last. I think we're a group that lines up, goes to work, does things the right way.
One thing that jumped out to me right away, I remember during the whole recruitment of Russell, media attention, we were doing a Badger Day, we go all around the state. A fan walked up to me and shook my hand said, Coach, I really appreciate the way you do what you do. He was sincere. He said, I mean what I said. Alls he was saying was the Russell recruitment, whenever he is a starter, it was a positive story about college football. I think that's what I'm excited about.
One of the first things I do every day, I'll come into my office and plug into a web page that's all about college football. I'll read the top 12 headlines. Most of the time, more than three-quarters of them are about negative things around college football. For us to stay in a positive light, means a lot for me, means a lot for us in recruiting. I think that's very evident in the kind of kids we're playing.
I think for us to be entering a time in college football, to be part of a new conference with 12 teams, to be a part of the Leaders Division, to have our team on national TV for four games in our conference that no one else can touch, to have our winning percentage over the last six years go against anybody in college football, it's fun to be a Badger.
Q. You talked about negative headlines about college football. What is it going to take to put college football back in a positive light after the negativity we've seen this off-season?
COACH BIELEMA: You know what, that's a great question. We always tell our players, Don't worry about things you can't control. I'm a head coach at the University of Wisconsin. What I can do is I can control, manage the things I have on my desk on a daily basis. If we continue to make positive strides, I think it helps everybody involved.
From the bigger picture, I remember early on in this process when I became a head coach, some of the older coaches in our profession, some guys with more experience, expressed, You have abnormal opportunity as a young coach, the success you're having, to be a great voice for our profession. I'll never take that lightly. 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.
If you're trying to be competitive, you're trying to win a football game, all those things, maximize all your opportunities, do what you have to do. 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.
Q. You mentioned the increased media attention that's been brought to Wisconsin. Also you're pulling four night games this year bringing media attention. What do you do to keep your players focused despite all that attention?
COACH BIELEMA: You know what, I think the part that I really enjoy about our players, and you'll have an opportunity to interview them over the next 48 hours, we really do concentrate on one thing at that time. We're going to concentrate coming into fall camp doing what we have to do to get better.
We say at Wisconsin, if you don't like college football, don't come to Wisconsin. We have to get a framework in our mind to know that's what we're going to do. Don't let success go to your head, keep an even keel.
It's been fun. I think the one thing that's coming out of my conversations with strength staff and players is everybody knows how to work. If that happens, we got a chance.
There's so many voices that go into a young man's head. It could be mom and dad, a pretty little girl he's dating, trying to date, whatever. They tell everybody how good they are. We as coaches remind them how humble they need to be and past success does not guarantee future success. You have to work every day to get to where you need to be. Good things hopefully will happen.
Q. Coach, you mentioned coming down hard on people. Bill Cubit, your friend at Western Michigan, said he would like to see any coach found guilty of a major violation no longer able to coach in the NCAA. What would you think about that?
COACH BIELEMA: You know what, I think the proven thing there is if someone knowingly and willingly violates a rule, I don't see anything wrong with a substantial penalty. What that is, I'll let other people decide.
You know what, when I come across something that I know someone is willingly or knowingly doing, I have no tolerance for that, in my program especially. I remind my assistants all the time, as a head coach I'm responsible for so many people. I tell kids all the time in recruiting, I'm going to be in charge of you basically two or three hours on a practice field every day. I don't know what you're going to do at 1:00 on Saturday night. I hope I know because I recruit a young man. I said it earlier, but I think you recruit your own problems.
One thing we try to emphasize at Wisconsin, I tell my coaches, they're all fathers, they all have children, If you are not willing to let a recruit come in and baby-sit your children when you're not in the house, don't recruit them. If we have a young man who is disrespectful to his mother, disrespectful to a woman, don't recruit them. Usually an indicator of something that's bad to come.
Everybody argues with my dad. My dad never played the game, but he thinks he's Vince Lombardi. I think that's something to notice in the recruiting process, how he acts around people. In our program, fortunately for us, there haven't been a lot of things.
Thank you very much. On, Wisconsin.