Bielma Takes Aim

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Last updated: 07/30/2011 1:33 AM

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Football
Bielema Takes Aim At Ohio State, Not Tressel
By Brandon Castel

CHICAGO — Jim Tressel is gone and there is a new sheriff in town.

Fresh off his selection by the media as the best coach in the Big Ten, Bret Bielema took aim at the team that has dominated the conference for most of the last decade.

“We’ve been knocking on the door of Ohio State for a couple of years, but to finally go through last year in the way that we did, there wasn’t any question about who won that football game,” Wisconsin’s head coach said at the 2011 Big Ten Media Days.

Bielema had lost his first three meetings with the Buckeyes after taking over for Barry Alvarez in 2006, but the Badgers finally upended Tressel’s squad with a 31-18 victory in Madison last October.

Jump-started by David Gilreath’s opening kick return, Wisconsin dominated the first half of the game, but No. 1-ranked Ohio State rallied for a comeback in the second half before James White hammered the nail home with a 12-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.

It was the only game Ohio State would lose all season, and one that did not sit well with former OSU quarterback Terrelle Pryor.

“The only bad part about Terrelle leaving was he said the week after it was a fluke, that they’d beat us nine out of 10 times,” Bielema said Thursday.

“So to me, we really wanted to play that game against him, but unfortunately we won’t.”

The 41-year old Bielema has never hidden his distaste for Ohio State, especially after Pryor ripped the hearts out of Wisconsin fans with his last-second touchdown run two years ago.

With Tressel and Pryor both gone, the Badgers are the popular pick to win the Big Ten in 2011 despite the fact they visit Columbus on Oct. 29. Add transfer Russell Wilson to the mix and everything seems to be turning up roses for Bielema’s program as of late.

Ohio State’s loss would appear to be Wisconsin’s game, at least for the moment, but Bielema doesn’t spend much time worrying about the Buckeyes, other than Pryor apparently.

“I understand why you ask the question, but I don't spend one day at the University of Wisconsin worrying about what's going on at Ohio State,” he seethed. 

“Ohio State still has a lot of real good football players, Luke (Fickell) is a very good football coach. He’s a great assistant coach and my guess is he’s going to be a good head coach, but it doesn’t change what we do at Wisconsin.”

During his press conference Thursday, Bielema took what appeared to be a cheap shot at Tressel and the situation that has unfolded at Ohio State.

“If you're trying to be competitive, you're trying to win a football game, all those things, maximize all your opportunities, do what you have to do,” he said at the podium.

“But 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 number one thing I would love to see happen in the world of college football.”

Bielema clarified his statements moments later in the hallway.

“You know what, those comments weren’t directed toward Ohio State,” he said.

“I don’t know exactly what went on. More to those comments that I was referring to was recruiting. When you have people who are knowingly are breaking rules or doing things that aren’t over the table, that is very frustrating. It’s very hard to trace. It’s just very, very upsetting when the people who are involved aren’t hammered the way they should be.”

Bielema may have dislike for the Buckeyes, who had won six straight Big Ten titles before vacating their co-championship from the 2010 season, but he doesn’t harbor any ill will towards their former head coach.

In fact, it is just the opposite.

“There’s not a coach in this profession that treated me or helped me enter this league better than Jim Tressel,” Bielema said of the maligned coach. 

“He was a guy that grabbed my hand the first time we walked into a meeting, wrote personal notes after games and treated me in a way that was really at the time overwhelming for me because here’s a guy that had accomplished so much.”

Thursday was also the day where close friend and former colleague Mark Dantonio referred to Tressel as a “tragic hero” following his startling resignation at Ohio State. Dantonio testified to the kind of man Tressel was away from the football field, but he was pretty good in that arena as well.

“Unfortunately, the situation arose there, but it doesn’t change my opinion about who he is or what he is or the program he built,” said Bielema, who was a part of the Big Ten for all but two of Tressel’s years in Columbus (from 2002-03 he served as the co-defensive coordinator at Kansas State). 

“To win six Big Ten championships (in a row), that doesn’t just happen. You have a lot of good coaches and a lot of good football players that were able to do that, and he’s responsible for all of that.”

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