Fresh off his performance Monday night at Wrigley Field where Bret Bielema made a valiant attempt at the storied Chicago seventh inning stretch, the University of Wisconsin head coach found himself in front of a microphone just a few hours later, this time in a performance he was a little more comfortable with.
"Contrary to popular belief, I am not going to give my rendition of the stretch this morning as I did last night in front of 45,000 Cubie fans," Bielema told a room full of reporters Tuesday at the Big Ten media conference at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Chicago. "I was nervous last night, this is a piece of cake today."
But still playing the role as entertainer, Bielema seemed to have full command of his audience of reporters from around the conference, often joking and drawing quite a few laughs while previewing the 2007 Badger football season.
Then again, things are good for the second-year head coach who is coming off a 12-1 campaign and whose team was recently selected to finish second in the conference, one spot behind Michigan and one ahead of Ohio State.
"We have a chance to be a good football team, but the real key to success is how you handle every week, on and off the football field," Bielema said. "We had some great seniors a year ago that left the mark of how you play on the field, and more importantly, how you act off."
The success of a season ago has been downplayed by critics quick to note UW did not face mighty Ohio State in 2006, a team that made it to the national title game. But staying true to form, behind deflected the shot just as quickly as it was handed to him.
"Absolutely," said Bielema, responding to a question of whether he would have preferred to play the Buckeyes a season ago. "The great thing about the Big Ten is the way the schedule works out. We didn't have the opportunity to play Ohio State and it was something with the way everything panned out.
"But I would love to see the computer that spit out that we would play Ohio State and Michigan back-to-back," Bielema said with a grin on his face. "Some kind of random, blind draw where some teams don't play either of them, but that's not in my control."
Concerns on the injury front was another question Bielema fielded, referring to Aubrey Pleasant, Shane Carter and Chris Pressley[/db], all of whom redshirted in 2006. Each is expected to play significant minutes in 2007, and again, the 37-year old used a bit of humor to get his point across.
"Chris Pressley is cleared to play and we are real happy to get him back," Bielema said. "Chris Pressley, he walks through the door, he looks right; he looks like a football player. Then he goes to China for three weeks for an academic thing, he leaves and he's 265 to 270 and came back 250. That is going to be our new weight loss program, send the guys to China."
And for his closing act during his 15-minute allotted time frame, Bielema was credited with altering an NCAA rule on kickoffs that will change how the time runs off the clock during that play. Fans may remember a year ago when UW ran almost 25 seconds against Penn State in the waning seconds before the half on three kickoffs.
"I'll tell you guys the real story, I think every coach in the country saw the potential to manipulate the rule when it came out and I wasn't any different," Bielema said.
"I think there was 24 seconds and I get into the huddle and tell our guys we are going to do that play where we maximize our coverage. What I didn't expect was our guys were five or six yards offsides and Penn State opted to re-kick," he continued. "The official came up to me and said, 'Bret, were going to re-kick,' and I said, 'we are?' And he said, 'your going to do it again aren't you,' and I said, 'I think so.'"
With undivided attention, Bielema continued his story.
"Then James Kamoku, and I love him to death, kid out of Hawaii. He said, 'how far can we go offside?' and I said, 'I don't care if you're at the goal line, we're going to maximize our coverage,'" he said. "So they (kickoff unit) got all excited and we were now about 10 or 11 yards offsides.
On that play, a player on the Penn State front line was called for holding after tackling a Badger that ran past him on the kick. Both teams received a penalty and UW was forced to kickoff once again.
"It's the universal rule for the front line of the return to stay put until the ball leaves the tee, but he (Kamoku) is sprinting past these guys before they even lift their heads up so one guy tackles him and we are now going to do it all over again," Bielema said. "The same ref come up and says 'we're going to re-kick,' and I say, 'I know we are, but don't worry we are going to be onsides.' Of course at that time there was five seconds left and we ran into the locker room after the kick," he said.
Leaving the room in good spirits, Bielema thanked the crowd and blended back into the sea of coaches and players, a tough act to follow for Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel.
If he makes a similar exit at the end of the 2007 season, possibly with a BCS bowl victory, he's certain to leave the Badger community in good spirits, as well.
...More... To continue reading this article you must be a member. Sign Up Now for a FREE Trial