Bret Bielema, co-defensive coordinator, linebackers coach and recruiting coordinator at Kansas State the past two seasons, has been hired as defensive coordinator at Wisconsin, head coach Barry Alvarez announced Thursday.
"I'm very pleased to be able to add Bret to our staff," Alvarez said. "He has been a successful player and coach in the Big Ten and has been associated with winning football programs. He has coached with and learned from some of the best in the business, including Hayden Fry, Kirk Ferentz and Bill Snyder. Bret will bring a good mixture of energy, enthusiasm and experience to our defense. He is a good fit for our program."
Bielema, who coached the Wildcats' linebackers, helped guide a 2003 Kansas State unit that finished sixth nationally in total defense (283.1 yards per game) and eighth in scoring (16.3 points per game). In 2003, Kansas State limited six opponents to fewer than 10 points, registered one shutout and shut down top-ranked Oklahoma 35-7 in a Big 12 championship game victory that earned the Wildcats a berth in the Fiesta Bowl. Linebacker Josh Buhl, a Butkus Award semifinalist, earned first-team All-America honors and led the nation in tackles with a school-record 184 stops in 2003.
In Bielema's first season (2002) at Kansas State, the Wildcats led the nation in scoring defense allowing just 11.8 points per game, were second nationally in total defense (249.0 yards per game) and rushing defense (69.5) and third in the nation in pass efficiency defense (91.69 rating).
Kansas State was 22-6 overall during Bielema's two seasons on Coach Bill Snyder's staff.
Prior to his tenure at Kansas State, Bielema spent nine seasons as an assistant coach at Iowa. He moved through the ranks with the Hawkeyes, starting as an undergraduate student assistant coach, then graduate assistant and, finally, full-time assistant. He coached Iowa's linebackers for six seasons. The 1997 Hawkeye defense posted three shutouts and ranked No. 4 nationally in scoring and pass efficiency defense, seventh in total defense and 11th in run defense. Among Bielema's top linebackers at Iowa were honorable mention All-Big Ten picks Vernon Rollins and Matt Hughes (fifth in school career tackles with 354), and first-team all-conference selection Fred Barr.
Bielema earned four letters (1989-92) after joining the Hawkeye football program as a walk-on. A member of Iowa's 1990 Big Ten championship team, he was a starter as a junior in 1991 and helped the Hawkeyes to a 10-1-1 record, a No. 5 national ranking and a Holiday Bowl appearance. He was a team co-captain as a senior in 1992. He signed a free agent contract with the Seattle Seahawks in April of 1993 before completing his playing career with the Milwaukee Mustangs of the Arena Football League in 1994.
Bielema has participated in eight bowl games as a player ('91 Rose and '91 Holiday) or coach (at Iowa: '93 Alamo, '95 Sun, '96 Alamo, '01 Alamo; at Kansas State: '02 Holiday, '04 Fiesta).
A 1992 graduate of Iowa with a bachelor's degree in marketing, the 34-year-old Bielema was born on Jan. 13, 1970 in Prophetstown, Ill.