"I've decided to announce today that I'll step down as the head football coach at the University of Wisconsin at the conclusion of the 2005 season. I will remain the athletic director and am very excited about the prospects for our athletic department.
"Today's announcement has been in the works for a number of months. This is my personal timeline. As one of my close friends told me, ‘you'll know when it's the right time.' I believe it's the right time.
"For me personally, today is really a day of thank you. To my family. To my wife Cindy. They say that to have a chance to be a good coach you have to have a great wife. And she is the absolute best. She's been a partner and like an assistant coach from the days we started as a high school assistant. She's been a great mother and my best friend."
"To my children: Dawn, Stacy and Chad. I know it's not easy to be a coach's kid all the time. But there's never been a complaint, they've always been very supportive and each one of them has excelled in their own right. And I'm very proud and I love them.
"I see my two grandsons Joe and Jake sitting there. Man am I going to have fun watching them grow up.
"I will always be indebted to Pat Richter for giving me this opportunity. We were a good team, Pat.
"For Donna Shalala, for really getting the ball rolling. I certainly want to thank Chancellor (John) Wiley for his continued support. I'm very appreciative of what he does for me and the entire athletic department.
"I've had a great group of assistant coaches in the last 15 years. We couldn't have accomplished this without my assistant coaches. They've all been very loyal, hardworking and very dedicated. And I thank each and every one of them.
"To the hundreds of players, who is what this is what this is really all about. Who really bought in to what we were selling. To buy in when we were selling blue sky. To come here and help build the program, I thank all of our former players.
"To the loyal staffers, like John Chadima and Steve Malchow, who were young punks just out of college when I hired them. Guys that have been married to their jobs 24/7, loyal, hardworking; always be indebted to them.
"To Mendota members, particularly the board and director Wayne Esser. We wouldn't have had a chance to compete without Mendota and all the things that they've done for us. I want to thank you for giving me that opportunity; giving our program the opportunity.
"To Monsignor Mike Burke, close friend to not only me, but our entire staff and every player that's ever walked through here probably in the last 24 years. Friend and confidant. I always have to look after him, which most of you wouldn't realize.
"I also want to thank the loyal and proud Wisconsin fans. One of my greatest joys is when a fan simply says, ‘Hey coach, thanks for a job well done. You've done a great job, we're proud.' There's nothing like it.
"About 15 years ago I looked at the UW as a sleeping giant. I was familiar with the campus, the community, the stadium. We felt that we could put these pieces together and build a program. My on-the-field memories could fill a book. I would do that except Justin [athletics communications director Justin Doherty] just wrote a book on all those memories.
"But things like clinching a Rose Bowl berth in Tokyo. Watching an overtime win at Minnesota from a hospital bed at the Mayo Clinic. Giving Ron Dayne a bear hug after coming down to the sidelines the day he broke the NCAA rushing record, thus clinching a Rose Bowl berth that day. The sense of pride for players like Joe Panos and Joe Rudolph, heroes who helped their fellow students at the fan crush in '93. And our old lunch pail gang, blue collar, winning the first Rose Bowl. The improbable pitch-and-catch from (Matt) Schabert to (Lee) Evans to defeat defending national champ Ohio State. And that great postgame exchange with Brooks Bollinger, who competed his fanny off in the late-game comeback win against Colorado in San Antonio. And I can go on and on forever.
"Off the field, been very fortunate to establish some wonderful friendships. Folks like Ted Kellner, Larry and Pam Jacobson, John and Jeannie Flesch… and many others. You have a lot of friends when you go to the Rose Bowl. But these are friends that are there at good times and at bad times.
"Although I feel as though I just walked down memory lane I'm just as excited about the future of UW athletics. It's been a joy and privilege to serve the University of Wisconsin as the athletic director and head football coach for the past 16 months, but it takes its toll.
"I'm proud of the job my staffs have done, both administrative and football.
"I think it's very important to emphasize that my immediate focus is to coach the 2005 football team and coach them to its fullest potential. The thing that I shared with the players this morning, that I would guarantee them that they will have a great effort and great preparation and tremendous focus from myself and our entire staff.
"They deserve that because they've worked so hard in preparation for this season and we will not let them down.
"I felt truly fortunate to have a coach on my staff who will continue the level of success that we've enjoyed. Although we've spent just one season together, I couldn't be more convinced that Bret Bielema is the right man to replace me.
"Bret above all is enthusiastic and knowledgeable about the game of football. He's been around success his entire life. He has tremendous rapport with players and coaches. He's a tireless worker and I feel as though he's a rising star in our profession.
"One of the main reasons that I'm making this announcement today is to keep the momentum in recruiting. We're off to a very good start and have a number of recruits committed. I think… by having the luxury of maintaining continuity within our staff it allows us to not lose a recruiting season but to move right into a recruiting season and to have an outstanding one.
"The only change that will be made during this football season will be the fact that Bret will head up the recruitment. He will be in charge of identifying all the recruits.
"Having Bret by my side this fall will ease the transition into the future for our players and I mentioned that this morning. Change is hard. Any time you have a change in coaching staff it's hard. But I think this will be a very easy transition for our players because they know the coaches, they know the head coach that will be with them. And I think it will be a very easy transition, much like the one that I had the luxury of having with Pat when I assumed the A.D. duties. That year met an awful lot to me. And at that time I thought it was very unique. I don't know how many times it's happened in college football but I thought it would be an excellent way to do the same thing when I was ready.
"I can say to you with great confidence that Bret Bielema is the perfect person for me to hand off the head coaching duties to next January. It's been my personal pleasure to serve this outstanding institution as its football coach.