New York Giants position coach Bret Bielema is moving back to the college ranks as head coach of the University of Illinois.
The school announced Bielema as their head coach on Saturday after signing a six-year contract with the annual salary of $4.2 million. Bielema, 50, will begin his duties immediately and will attend the Fighting Illini's game on Saturday vs. Penn State as a guest of UI's Director of Athletics Josh Whitman.
Bielema was hired by first-year Giants head coach Joe Judge ahead of the 2020 season. He served as the outside linebackers coach and as a senior assistant. From 2018-19, Bielema was on Bill Belichick's coaching staff in New England along with Judge, earning a Super Bowl ring in the Patriots' 2018 campaign.
"We always want to be supportive of our coaches and players in terms of advancing their careers," said Judge on Saturday, via the team's official website. "We appreciate everything Bret did for this organization and our coaching staff. He did he a great job with our outside linebackers and made a significant impact on our overall defensive effort. Bret is a great teacher, and he brings great perspective on how he sees the game. We wish him all the best at the University of Illinois. The Illini program is in great hands."
The Giants announced inside linebackers coach Kevin Sherrer will assume Bielema's responsibilities going forward. Sherrer will also be assisted by defensive assistant Jody Wright.
"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, via the program's official website. "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 men playing football in the state of Illinois from Freeport to Cairo and from Quincy to Danville dreaming of wearing the Orange and Blue and playing at Memorial Stadium. I look forward to re-connecting with the high school coaches around the state making it clear we intend to keep our players home.
"We will build an outstanding staff for both player development and recruiting. The University of Illinois has incredible facilities and is known as one of the world's outstanding academic institutions. We will hold the young men on our team responsible both on and off the field while coaching them to be champions in life. Jen and I, along with our girls, are excited to get to Champaign-Urbana and get started on the journey. Go Illini!"
A native of Prophetstown, Illinois, Bielema becomes the 26th head coach in the football program's 132-year history. Bielema has 24 years of collegiate coaching experience and compiled a twelve-year record of 97-58 (.626) as head coach at Wisconsin and Arkansas.