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February 2, 2012MADISON -- Days off are few and far between for Bret Bielema.
In the month that has passed since the Badgers' second straight Rose Bowl loss, Bielema has accumulated plenty of frequent flyer miles. In fact, he spent just two days in Madison during the month of January.
"It's been a little insanity," Bielema said. To walk out of that locker room in Pasadena was not an easy deal. To see our kids the next day, just a tough 24 hours. But there isn't time to mope around for the people that want to do so."
During his signing day press conference on Wednesday, the Wisconsin head football coach gave an idea of what his hectic schedule has been like lately.
-- Tuesday, Jan. 3: Bielema returns to UW campus.
" I had an offensive coordinator candidate actually beat me to Madison. So I had to quick do a Superman change, and went out to dinner with him."
-- Wednesday, Jan. 4: Splitting time between hiring coaches, recruiting.
Bielema spends the day with the offensive coordinator candidate before driving to Kenosha to visit running back Vonte Jackson at his home.
-- Thursday, Jan. 5: Up in the air.
Bielema takes a 6 a.m. flight to see quarterback Bart Houston in San Francisco. Houston meets with Bielema that evening.
-- Friday, Jan. 6: Another early flight, followed by a redeye.
Bielema boards a 7 a.m. flight to visit offensive tackle Walker Williams in Tacoma. After having dinner with Williams and his family, Bielema catches a midnight flight back to Madison.
-- Saturday, Jan. 7: Seven hours in Madison.
With his flight landing at 9 a.m., Bielema had a short time to spend at home before leaving again. By 4 p.m., he was back on a plane headed to San Antonio for a coaches convention.
-- Sunday, Jan. 8 - Wednesday, Jan. 11: A few days in the same place.
Bielema interviewed 20 coaches during his four days at the convention.
-- Thursday, Jan. 12: Rare day off at home.
Bielema spent two days in Madison during January, and this was one of them.
-- Friday, Jan. 13: On the road to Illinois
After a day of rest, Bielema drove down to Barrington to visit offensive tackle Dan Voltz and his parents.
-- Saturday, Jan. 14 - Sunday, Jan. 15: Two days in Florida
-- Monday, Jan. 16 - Tuesday, Jan. 17: Two days in Pittsburgh
Bielema cut off the detailed account of his travels at that point, adding that it's been that way over the last two weeks as well.
"It's been on the run, but it's probably been one of the more enjoyable times of my life," Bielema said. "I don't think my fianc?would say that, but it was fun because I got to meet so many great coaches."
Recruiting while shorthanded
Not only has Bielema been busy of late, he's also been dealing with a significant transition period with six assistant coaches leaving for new jobs.
The losses of Paul Chryst, Bob Bostad, Dave Huxtable, Joe Rudolph, DelVaughn Alexander and DeMontie Cross have only added to the workload for Bielema and his remaining assistant coaches.
With a smaller staff, Bielema had to balance hiring new assistants as well as completing the recruitment process for the 2012 class. In that regard, Bielema referred to their relatively small recruiting class as a "blessing in disguise."
"I can't say enough about my staff and the way they just kind of pulled the belt a little bit tighter and strapped it on and got after things," Bielema said. I do think though, if it had been another 10 guys we had to keep track of, it wouldn't have been good."
Recruiting also got more difficult for Bielema and the Badgers with the arrival of Urban Meyer as head coach at Ohio State.
A question about Meyer also brought out some interesting comments on Wednesday from Bielema regarding whether anything had changed because of Meyer's arrival.
"I hope it doesn't change, [but] I think the potential to change has been there," Bielema said. "There's a few things that happened early on I made people be aware of that I didn't want to see in this league that I had seen take place at other leagues. Other recruiting tactics, other recruiting practices that are illegal.
"I was very up front and was very pointed to the fact. I actually reached out to Coach Meyer and shared my thoughts and concerns with him and the situation got rectified."
Bielema then recalled a job offer he had received during his time as an assistant under Barry Alvarez and the discussion he had with that coach.
"You know what the difference between the Big Ten and our conference is?" Bielema said, quoting the coach. "I said, 'No', and he said, 'In the Big Ten, everybody tells on everybody. In our conference nobody tells on anybody.'
"And that made a huge comment to me. I've been very cognizant of that. I encouraged our coaches to play by the books, to do things a certain way."
Competing with friends
During the final stages of the recruitment process, Bielema also had the added element of competing with former assistants at Pittsburgh (Chryst, Bostad, Huxtable and Rudolph) and Northern Illinois (Dave Doeren).
Two UW recruits from the Pittsburgh area -- cornerback Reggie Mitchell and defensive tackle Arthur Goldberg -- "never wavered" in their decision to come to Wisconsin.
When asked about the difficulty of competing with friends, Bielema recalled his departure from Iowa to take a new position at Kansas State.
"It is difficult," Bielema said. "A wise coach told me you lose more friendships in recruiting than you do on the football field."
He has not lost any friends in the recent departures from his staff, but did note some interesting comments from a Pittsburgh offensive line coach who Bielema said had told a recruit that Wisconsin would be running the spread next season.
"It was interesting," he said. "Everybody's still invited to my wedding, so it could be one hell of a party afterwards. We'll see where it goes from there."