Illinois hires Bret Bielema as its next football coach, replacing Lovie Smith on a 6-year deal

Illinois has hired Bret Bielema as its new football coach. Nearly a week after firing coach Lovie Smith, Illinois on Saturday announced Bielema as his replacement. Bielema, who played at Iowa, coached Wisconsin to three Big Ten championships and six straight bowl games in his seven-season tenure. “Illinois and the Big Ten is home for me, and I can’t be any more excited about the opportunity in front of me with the Fighting Illini,” Bielema said in a statement. “We want to build a program that makes Illini Nation proud and regain the passion that I’ve seen when Illinois wins. We want the young …

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