According to sources close to the situation, defensive coordinator Mike Hankwitz has been relieved of his duties and will not return to UW for his third season.
Coming over as a defensive coordinator and outside linebackers coach from Colorado, including coaching the Buffaloes during the 2005 Champs Sports Bowl, Hankwitz, 60, inherited a powerful Wisconsin defense and coached them to be one of the top units in the nation.
The Badgers were number one in the country in pass efficiency defense (84.19 rating), second in passing yards allowed (138.3), second in scoring defense (12.1 ppg) and fifth in total defense (253.1 ypg).
But despite returning seven starters, Wisconsin's defense regressed.
The Badgers ranked 39th in total defense after allowing 356.6 yards per game during the regular season (103 more than last season), finished the season 42nd against the run (134.1), 35th nationally in scoring defense (23.15 ppg) and 54th in pass efficiency defense (122.82 rating).
Wisconsin allowed 25.9 points per game and forced just five turnovers through its first seven contests this season before rebounding down the stretch.
After allowing just 21 or more points twice (Illinois and Iowa) last season, the Badger defense allowed three touchdowns or more nine times – going 5-4 in those games – and struggled mightily against spread offenses (i.e. The Citadel, Illinois and Minnesota).
Neither Bielema nor Hankwitz could be reached for comment.
The likely candidate to replace Hankwitz would obviously be Dave Doeren, linebackers coach and co-defensive coordinator, who is also in his second season.
Doeren came to UW from Kansas, where he was an assistant from 2002-'05. He was the team's linebackers coach and recruiting coordinator during that time and before the '05 season he was given the title of co-defensive coordinator.
The 2005 Kansas team led the Big 12 Conference and ranked No. 3 nationally in rushing defense (83.3 ypg) and finished second in the Big 12 and 11th nationally in total defense (303.3 ypg).
The loss of Hankwitz would mark the second coaching vacancy Bielema would have to fill today, as offensive line coach Bob Palcic was hired today at UCLA to the same position.