Posted by Bryan Fischer
SAN ANTONIO, Texas -- Normally the coaches convention is a time where head coaches can let lose the top button, smooze a little bit and pick up a new wrinkle or two in terms of X's and O's. Legendary former Florida State defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews told several younger assistant coaches that the one thing you had to do every convention is just learn one thing.
For Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema, he would love to be able to relax a little bit and pick up just one thing from the nearly 1,000 coaches in town. Instead of going to clinics or chatting up others however, he's one of the busiest around. With the departure of Badgers offensive coordinator Paul Chryst to become head coach at Pittsburgh, Bielema has a rather big hire to make in the next week or two and with Signing Day approaching, things have been even more hectic than usual for the seventh year head coach.
"This is a fun time," Bielema said. "We got done with the bowl the game on Monday, flew back on Tuesday. I interviewed an OC on Tuesday and Wednesday, had a recruiting visit Wednesday night, went to San Francisco Thursday, Seattle on Friday then took a red-eye back to Madison. I got in at 9 a.m. and flew here at 4:30."
In addition to finding a replacement for Chryst, Bielema also is looking to replace run game coordinator Bob Bostad and tight ends coach Joe Rudolph and linebackers coach Dave Huxtable. While it may seem like a lot, it's nothing for Bielema.
"My first year, I came out here and interviewed almost 25 guys, he said. "In three days, I talked to 22. I just held up in my room and talked and talked and basically ended up making three of my nine hires from down here."
Staff continuity has been something few coaches have had but generally Wisconsin has been about average when it comes to losing coaches. The opening this year are just part of the process that top programs have to go through after the season is over.
"Last year I hired three new guys," Bielema said. "When I hire these guys out, it will be my 21st hire in six years. We have had continuity and the ability to keep some guys there but mainly it's being able to get the right kind of guys because we've been so successful."
When hiring an offensive coordinator at some point in the next week or two, the fiery Badgers head coach also has a pretty good bargaining chip that others hiring do not with running back and Heisman finalist Montee Ball returning for another year and another run for the roses.
"That's huge," Bielema said. "A, he's a great kid. B, I think it's the right thing for him. He clearly made a big jump this year and has a chance to grow and continue to move forward. I know he's got a great relationship with coach (Tom) Hammock so that's something that is going to be working moving forward."
Just as Bielema has to do this week with his staff.