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Wednesday (Bret Bielema and Badgers fans' curious reaction) edition: Wha' Happened?

Posted by: Michael Rand under NCAA: football, Gophers Updated: December 5, 2012 - 8:33 AM

In Minnesota, there is no love lost for Bret Bielema. For starters, instinctively, he coached the rival team. He could have been Gandhi and Gophers fans would have had to boo him. But Bielema added fuel to the fire with a perceived general attitude and specific actions -- most notably the two-point conversion flare-up with former coach Tim Brewster in 2010, still the subject of much mock and ridicule. More than that, though, there was the unhappiness among Gopher Nation that Bielema seemed to be continuing on the legacy of success built by Barry Alvarez. Wisconsin is, after all, about to play in its third consecutive Rose Bowl.

That is why there were two shocks Tuesday -- first, the news that Bielema is leaving for Arkansas. The fit seems odd, and we really don't see how it gets him any closer to success. It had to be ego-driven (I can win anywhere, even the SEC) and money-driven, and Bielema presumably has no shortage of either. But the second shock is that we found the "good riddance" sentiment not just coming from Gophers fans glad to have a disliked and successful rival coach out of the way, but also from Badgers fans.

Almost universally -- whether they were comments on stories or conversations with fans -- we found Wisconsin fans carrying a "don't let the door hit you on the way out" mentality when it comes to Bielema's departure.

Maybe it's his 0-2 record in Rose Bowls. Maybe fans never connected with him the same way they connected with Alvarez. Maybe it's some curious in-game decision-making at times.

Whatever it is, Badgers fans, we will tell you this: Unless this is a facade, you really need to be careful what you wish for. Bielema might not have been perfect, but from where we sit he was a pretty effective coach. And sometimes when you lose pretty good and assume you will upgrade to great, you find out just how nice pretty good felt.

On a lesser scale, Gophers fans can tell you exactly how it felt. Six years ago, Glen Mason was fired after a modest run of success that never resulted in getting over the proverbial hump. That season, Minnesota was 6-6 in the regular season and faced Texas Tech in a bowl game -- exactly where it is now after many more lows than highs.

The Badgers have certainly built their program to a higher point than Mason ever did, but the point sticks. Enjoy these Rose Bowls, Wisconsin, and the man who took you there. It might be a really long time until you go again.


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