'Hammer' The Bad Guys

Stepping up to the microphone on the first day of Big Ten Media Days, Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema says he has no tolerance for those who skirt the rules.

CHICAGO - During Bret Bielema's Big Ten media days press conference Thursday, the University of Wisconsin football coach didn't hide his feelings about how he'd handle the violations plaguing the world of college football if they struck his program.

"If I had a dream world, I'd say hammer the guys that don't do things right," Bielema said. "In my profession, the only thing that I get very frustrated about is when I know things go on that aren't right. Mainly in recruiting, I think that's the biggest thing that comes across my desk. Because people are willingly and knowingly abusing rules and breaking things. When that happens, when you are consciously aware of abusing a rule, there's no excuse for that.

"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 No. 1 thing I would love to see happen in the world of college football."

While Wisconsin's successful recruitment of transfer quarterback Russell Wilson generated offseason headlines across the country, so did the violations that caused fellow Big Ten heavyweight Ohio State to lose its head coach and starting quarterback.

Bielema mentioned a recent encounter he had when a Badgers fan shook his hand and thanked him for handling the program in a respectable manner. That moment was still with Bielema as he spoke on Thursday morning in Chicago.

"The Russell Wilson recruitment, whether he ends up being a good player for us or a starter or whatever, it was a positive story about college football," he said. "That's what I'm excited about. One of the first things I do every day is come into my office, and I'll plug onto a Web page that is all about college football, and I'll read the top 12 headlines. Most of the time, more than three-quarters to all of them are about negative things around college football. For us to stay in a positive light means a lot for me and means a lot for us in recruiting."

In order to keep the Wisconsin football program out of the negative headlines, Bielema tells his assistant coaches, all of whom have children, to recruit student-athletes by a fairly simple standard.

"If you aren't willing to let a recruit come in and baby-sit your kids for an evening when you're not in the house, don't recruit him," he said. "If we have a young man that is disrespectful to his mother -- we're sitting at a dinner table and he's disrespectful to a woman -- don't recruit him. It's usually an indicator that something bad is to come. I think that's an important thing to always recognize in a recruiting process is how a kid responds and acts around people. Fortunately for us, there hasn't been a lot of those things.

"I think you recruit your own problems."

Because Bielema is only with his players for a few hours every day on the field, he knows he can't be there all the time looking over their shoulders. But it's his goal to make sure the Badgers remain focused both on and off the field.

"There are so many voices that go into a young man's head," Bielema said. "It could be mom and dad, it could be a pretty little girl he's dating or trying to date, or whatever. They tell everybody how good they are. We as coaches remind them how humble you have to be. Past success does not guarantee future success."

Before Bielema turned his attention to violations in the sport, he did address his starting quarterback situation during his opening statement. Bielema described Wilson, who left the Colorado Rockies minor-league system to join the Badgers for his one remaining year of college eligibility, as "our potential starting quarterback."

When asked if there was seriously a chance that Wilson would not start for Wisconsin, Bielema responded, "Yeah, absolutely."

"I was very open with Russell during the recruiting process that you'll have an opportunity to come in and show us what you can do," Bielema said. "I think that's probably one of the things that attracted him to our program. We were very honest, very truthful. We said, ‘Come in. You'll have this opportunity, take full advantage of it and you'll be the guy that reaps the rewards.'

"I haven't seen Russell Wilson compete one snap competitively in practice. I think I know what might happen, but until it happens, that's where we're at."

With the loss of several key starters from last year's team to the NFL, including first-round draft picks J.J. Watt and Gabe Carimi, Bielema later talked about how he and his staff prepare so as not to not take a step back this season.

"I only focus on what I have. I don't focus on what I lost," Bielema said. "As coaches, we're not trying to replace J.J. Watt; we're trying to replace his production. Who gives us an opportunity to do that? One of the great things I learned during the Coach (Barry) Alvarez time when I was the defensive coordinator, he always talked about; the one thing that never graduates is tradition. Players move on, players leave early for the draft, you wish them the best of luck, and you pat them on the back. It's fun for me as a coach to see this transition.

"I want to concentrate on what our guys are going to be able to do this upcoming season. I couldn't be more excited. Wisconsin is what it is. We're not real sexy. We're not the first girl taken to prom, but we're not the last. I think we're a group that just lines up, goes to work and does things the right way."

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