Bret Bielema is the right head coach to take Illinois back to prominence in the Big Ten. So says New York Giants head coach Joe Judge, who brought Bielema in to the team this year as an outside linebacker coach.

Judge, who was on the New England Patriots staff with Bielema the last two years, praised his now former assistant in a statement. On Saturday morning, the Illini announced Bielema as their next head coach, replacing the recently fired Lovie Smith.

“We always want to be supportive of our coaches and players in terms of advancing their careers,” said Judge in a statement released by the Giants. “We appreciate everything Bret did for this organization and our coaching staff. He did he a great job with our outside linebackers and made a significant impact on our overall defensive effort. Bret is a great teacher, and he brings great perspective on how he sees the game. We wish him all the best at the University of Illinois. The Illini program is in great hands.”


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Born in Illinois and a former defensive lineman at Iowa, Bielema spent seven wildly successful seasons at Wisconsin that included seven bowl games and as many winning seasons. He left the Badgers to become head coach of Arkansas in 2012, his five seasons in the SEC proving to be far from successful with a 29-34 record and a 2-1 bowl record.

His team was just 11-29 in the conference during that span.

He will he replaced by Kevin Sherrer with the Giants, who spent a number of seasons as a position’s coach in the SEC with Georgia and Tennessee before transitioning this year to the SEC.