Gophers fans became accustomed to disliking (which might be a polite term) Bret Bielema when he was the head coach of Wisconsin. Some of it stems from his infamous decision to go for a 2-point conversion late in a 2010 game against Tim Brewster’s Gophers, a decision that irked Brewster. When Bielema left for Arkansas after the 2012 season, there were even some Badgers fans who thought it was good riddance.
All that said: Bielema earned major points as a coach and human being for the way he recently handled the sudden and tragic death of the father of Arkansas offensive lineman Frank Ragnow, who starred locally in high school for Chanhassen.
This past Saturday, Bielema got a call from Ragnow’s mother informing him that Frank’s father, Jon, had suffered a heart attack and died at the age of 50. Bielema was in the middle of dinner with his wife after a lopsided win over Alcorn State — and with Alabama looming next week — but he dropped everything to be with Ragnow when his mom delivered the news and then flew back to Minnesota with his player.
Bielema has been through similar situations, per this story, and felt it was the right thing to do.
Bielema said now, as a head coach, when he recruits players, he doesn’t make any promises about playing time or even academic success. “But one thing I can tell you is I’ll always look out for your son’s best interest,” Bielema tells them. “I say that every time and I mean it. I thought I needed to get Frank home, so that was it.”
Again, whatever you think about Bielema based on his past is one thing. This was pure class and caring.
It’s unclear whether Ragnow will play against Alabama, though he has said he wants to play. There are obviously more important things going on right now — chiefly a grieving process that Ragnow offered a glimpse of with a recent Instagram post.