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Illinois hires Bret Bielema as new head football coach

Bert back in the Big Ten!

Head Coach Bret Bielema of the Arkansas Razorbacks greets players before a game against the Missouri Tigers at Razorback Stadium on November 24, 2017 in Fayetteville, Arkansas. The Tigers defeated the Razorbacks 48-45. Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

You can take the boy out of the Big Ten (but only for a short time), but you can’t take the Big Ten out of the boy.

Bret Bielema is returning to the conference as he will be the next head coach of the Illinois Fighting Illini, the school announced on Saturday morning. He is set to make an annual salary of $4.2 million over the next six years. He will replace Lovie Smith, who was let go after going 17-39 over in five seasons with the Illini.

Bielema is most known for his run at Wisconsin where he led the Badgers to three Big Ten titles and went 68-24 from 2006-12 in Madison before leaving for Arkansas, which was an unsuccessful run for him and the Razorbacks.

He since moved on to the NFL where he most recently was an assistant coach for the New York Giants prior to taking this position. He will start immediately and will be in attendance for the Illinois’ game against Penn State later on today.

As a player Bielema was a defensive lineman for Iowa, so he clearly has a soft spot for the Big Ten.

Bielema has made it fairly known he wanted to get back into the college game badly as he has been linked to numerous head coaching jobs over the past few years. For the first time in years, Illinois will be a relevant college football program as Bielema is a pretty darn good entertainer.

It took nearly a decade, but Bret Bielema is back in the Big Ten, and the conference and college football are better for it.