Notes: No Looking Back

Wisconsin's 2010 football season was special with 11 wins, a conference championship and a Rose Bowl appearance. But the Badgers know that if they want to get back to Pasadena or even New Orleans, they must recognize that the past is the past.

CHICAGO - University of Wisconsin football head coach Bret Bielema faced a multitude of reporters as the 2011 Big Ten Football Media Days got underway at the Hyatt Regency McCormick Place in Chicago, but no matter how many times, no matter how many different ways, he was asked about last season, Bielema refused to stray from his message.

"You know, those are great things, but they're a part of history. People write about history," Bielema said. "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."

An upcoming season that includes not one, not two seismic shifts on the Conference landscape: the introduction of the University of Nebraska as Conference members and the move to a two division format with the winners playing in the inaugural Big Ten Football Championship Game held at Lucas Oil Field in Indianapolis.

"We always tell our players, don't worry about things you can't control," Bielema said. "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."

What Musical Chairs?

While new head coaches will trod the sidelines at Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota and Ohio State, Bielema finds himself tied for fourth in seniority among Big Ten coaches. Bielema's 49-16 record in that time has certainly helped his job security, but what has helped secure five consecutive winning seasons and an appearance in last season's Rose Bowl may well be the stability among his assistants.

"You know, every one of my assistant coaches this past year had an opportunity to leave our program, all nine of my assistant coaches had job opportunities at other places and I only lost one (John Settle to the NFL's Carolina Panthers)," Bielema said. "I think the reason that my coaches stay, the reason they leave money on the table at these other schools, is because they know what it's like to work at the University of Wisconsin."

Keeping his coaches is a challenge Bielema is sure to face year in and year out, but it's a challenge he relishes.

"To me, this is the environment you want to be in, this is what you try to get to," Bielema said. "You've got players and coaches that have done a lot of good things. Everybody's excited because we built a good program, but you know what I love is the coaching staff I've built. I love to go into an environment where we're going to go in and play against Dave Doeren who used to be on our staff. The reason he's at Northern Illinois is because of the success we've had at Wisconsin. To me, that's a great indication of the type of program we've built."

Pay for Play?

One of the most contentious issues raised throughout the day was whether student athletes should be compensated above and beyond what any scholarship, grant or loan may afford them. Unsurprisingly, there were arguments being made for and against the proposal at every turn.

"I definitely think it's something that should be explored," said Wisconsin senior All-Big Ten free safety Aaron Henry. "It's obvious with the money that's involved, and what's going on at Ohio State, that the NCAA should consider exploring it"

Recognizing that Henry, a native of Immokalee, FL, suffered de facto hardships as a result of having to travel halfway across the country at holiday and semester breaks when fellow Wisconsin Media Day participants Patrick Butrym and Nick Toon needed only to travel to Milwaukee and Middleton, respectively, Bielema voiced his modest support for discussing the subject.

"There are natural expenses Aaron is going to have to go home, compared to what these two guys have," Bielema said, pointing towards Butrym and Toon. "I don't know that there's a way to regulate it, but for some of our players that come from either a long distance or they don't come from a great environment of financial resources, there's just not enough things to help those guys out to help them live their dreams."

While Bielema is willing to consider the subject, count Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald among those who won't.

"I don't know if there's one easy fix to that problem," he said. "I think it starts with education, informing the young men that these are the resources that are available to them currently, Pell Grants and things of that nature."

"I know that when times were tough when I was growing up I had to get a thing called a job," Fitzgerald continued somewhat sarcastically. "So when is it possible for you to get a job? You know, for us it's in the winter, a little bit in the spring but more the winter quarter and over the summer and find a way to save some money, which is a really crazy concept."

NFL's Loss is Wisconsin's Gain

With the National Football League players locked out, Bielema found himself in the unique position of being able to bring in former players to work with the defending Conference champions, and while things will not get underway officially until Thursday, Bielema knows already the determination that his players possess.

"I got to hire former players because of the NFL lockout, J.J. Watt, Blake Sorensen, Niles Brinkley, Isaac Anderson, those guys worked our summer camp and they had been around our guys and were just commenting that they'd never seen a group of guys the way these guys are right now," Bielema said. "That's kind of the message I've gotten the entire summer."

Extra Points: Junior quarterback Curt Phillips (knee), freshman cornerback Devin Gaulden (stress fracture) and freshman wide receiver Marquis Mason (knee) are the only Badgers that won't be involved in fall practice, meaning senior right tackle Josh Oglesby, senior wide receiver Nick Toon and sophomore linebacker Chris Borland are cleared for work ... Quarterback Russell Wilson was listed at 5-foot-11 and 210 pounds on UW's updated depth chart. He'll wear No.16, the same number he had at N.C. State ... Defensive ends David Gilbert and Louis Nzegwu have each increased their weight to 255 pounds.

Badger Nation Top Stories