The Illinois Fighting Illini fell to the Penn State Nittany Lions, 56-21, at Beaver Stadium in State College on Saturday to drop to 2-6.

Prior to the game, the school made an announcement regarding their 2021 team, confirming the hiring of Bret Bielema as Lovie Smith’s successor.

Bielema will meet with the team at 1 p.m. ET on Sunday at the Henry Dale and Betty Smith Football Performance Center on-campus and will be formally introduced at a 1 p.m. ET press conference the next day, Monday, December 21, which will be held via Zoom.


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Born in Silvis, Illinois, the 50-year-old Bielema began his coaching career with the Iowa Hawkeyes, his alma mater, in 1994 as a graduate assistant.

After eight years in Iowa City, he left for Manhattan in 2002, becoming the Kansas State Wildcats’ co-defensive coordinator.

Taking over following now-Director of Athletics Barry Alvarez’ retirement, Bielema received his first head coaching opportunity with the Wisconsin Badgers in 2006, posting a 68-24 (37-19 Big Ten) record and leading the program to a bowl game in each of his seven seasons.

Leaving the join the Southeastern Conference’s Arkansas Razorbacks in 2013, his tenure in Fayetteville was less successful, totaling a 29-34 (11-29) record and three bowl game appearances in five seasons.

Since his firing from Arkansas, Bielema spent two years (2018-19) in the National Football League on Bill Belichick’s New England Patriots staff and joined another former Patriot assistant, Joe Judge, as the New York Giants’ outside linebackers coach & senior defensive assistant in 2020.