Bielema viral comments “had nothing to do with our roster”

Sports

CHAMPAIGN (WCIA) — Bret Bielema and Illinois were making waves on social media earlier this week, but not for reasons they probably would have wanted.

A tweet with the video of Bielema’s answer to a question about recruiting led to almost 600,000 views and hundreds of retweets and replies.

When talking to media Thursday for the first time since, Bielema said he believed his quote was taken out of context. Multiple players said on Tuesday they didn’t take what Bielema said the wrong way, and they were still behind their coach.

“It had nothing to do with our roster that I’m currently coaching or working with,” says Bielema. “That’s why it was really a non-issue with our guys once it was clarified. I literally on Tuesday morning showed them the entire transcript and gave them access to things that were physically said in that room. Unfortunately that’s the world we live in.”

The full transcript of Bielema’s answer can be found below.

Q: Both coordinators said you’re the hardest working head coach they’ve been around recruiting wise, can you just talk about your philosophy and what the role is for the head coach and are you more hands on guy than some other coaches?

Bielema: I appreciate the comment. I just know this, as a head coach you’re only as good as your roster right? I learned that the first time I went to the Kentucky Derby right? Nobody was betting on the jockeys. Everybody was betting on the horses. To win the Derby you got to have the right horse and I think our players are going to be a reflection of what our program stands for. I stood at the front of the room last year and said, “Everybody is invited back because of COVID.” They gave me the opportunity to do that. As this roster continues to transition I’ve got to make tough decisions, players have to make decisions. The roster is going to have to change to get to where we want to be to win the championship. I recognized that probably midway through the Spring last year, probably through the Summer. Just certain positions haven’t played out the way they envisioned them to. In particular the offensive line, I don’t believe we have a player in the two-deep that they’ve recruited here over the last three years that is significantly doing anything for us in the playing department and that’s a major concern. That’s something that we have to do. Top two quarterbacks that have played to this point are both transfers, right? So there hasn’t been any development at that position that is significantly playing right now. Isaiah [Williams] was that guy but he’s obviously playing the wide receiver position. Deuce [Spann]. We knew there was going to be an evolution just based on the style of defense that we play. We got to definitely get a lot of bigger bodies up front to get what we got to get done to play in this league at a consistent level. There’s things that we’re definitely evolving every day and as a head coach I have to prioritize my recruiting. I was heavily involved in the 15 guys we have committed to us. Anything I could do every day. One of the things I’ve to recruits when we’ve offered here as of late, “When we talk people are going to follow.” It’s just something I’ve witnessed in my career. And probably the last three or four guys we’ve offered here at the University of Illinois, in the high school ranks, in the [2022] class, immediately after that we’ve probably got anywhere from 3 to 5 additional Big Ten schools have offered. Which is part of it, I get it. I think it’s a sign of people paying attention to what we’re doing.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.