Bret Bielema Interview

Dec 20, 2020

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You never know what you'll fall into when you hustle.

I planned a trip to cover the Rutgers basketball game tomorrow and the Penn State basketball game on Wednesday. Then, we add a football game at Penn State the day before. Don't mind if I do.

Then we hire a coach on Saturday morning. I'm somewhere between Indianapolis and the Ohio border when I see the email come across my phone: Illini hire Bret Bielema. My phone starts blowing up, but I'm driving, so I pull off at some exit to get a Diet Mountain Dew. I flip through my phone. I see that Bret Bielema is driving to the Penn State game from New York. Wait, but that would mean...

  • I'm the only Illini media member covering the Penn State game.
  • The new head coach will be at the Penn State game.
  • I might be able to get the first interview with the new Illini head coach.

That interview is posted below. First, one of those thank-you paragraphs.

I'll be in a hotel the next five nights. I rented a car for this trip. I'll be eating food. And all of this is possible because you said "Robert, I'm in" at some point in the last 93 days and purchased a subscription. This is not just me "hustling" or whatever. This is you paying for me to hustle. That's how this whole thing works. You say "Robert, I want some content" and you slap down your money and then I go out and provide some content. So thank you. This interview is the byproduct of your support.

OK, impressions:

  1. He's very personable. Maybe personable isn't the right word. He's very... inviting? Maybe it's the deep voice. But he puts you at ease. I was very surprised by this. Not sure why - maybe it's my Arkansas coworker at the old job who told me story after story about how he was "aloof". But he's quite warm.
  2. The deep voice was the other surprise. I'll tell another old-job story. I worked on a development project that had a Kohl's. When presenting to the planning and zoning board, Kohl's sent a guy to talk about why they excited to join the {city name} community. In the pre-meeting with the architect, the architect gave him the "and you are..." and he said "I'm the guy from Kohl's with the deep voice and planning and zoning boards love guys with deep voices. It reassures them." That's kind of how I felt when speaking mask-to-mask. He has a deep, reassuring (?) voice.
  3. He likes to talk. We finished the interview and headed for the elevator. He asked me about 6 questions during the walk and the elevator ride. I am the W O R S T person to do that to because by the time we reached the 4th floor and he headed to the AD's suite, I was halfway through why I moved to Champaign in April. I wish I was kidding.
  4. I asked really bad questions (I'll be mad at myself for a month but I can't stop my brain at times like that). But he did really good at bringing the answers around to what I was getting at. So that was nice.
  5. I tried to put my brain in the mind of my Arkansas coworker as we chatted. Meaning, this is all new and hopeful right now, but when this goes south - and Illinois football goes south more than Canadian geese - will this be grating? I could see how my Arkansas coworker could get wrapped up in his long-answer ways in a frustrating "get to the point" way. But this is the honeymoon, so we don't have to worry about his foibles yet. (Also, I didn't get that impression. Maybe my Arkansas coworker was just angry about Petrino's accident the tumble under John L. Smith.)

Let's just get to the interview, shall we? My chat with the new Illini coach:


Duce20 on December 19, 2020 @ 07:14 PM

Dude I’m seriously happy you get to be the first. You earned it.

kpkelsey on December 19, 2020 @ 07:35 PM

I just told my wife and kids a little bit about your story. I'm so tickled for you. You deserve this.

Oh, and Bielema is really starting to grow on me. He seems like he has a plan, which would be so unusual for Illinois football....

Magoo2 on December 19, 2020 @ 08:19 PM

That's hilarious, I just did the same thing. Happy for you Robert.

Tuba Fossil on December 19, 2020 @ 08:20 PM

Very nice work, Robert. I love the personal, family stuff. Well done, and congrats. Good hustle.

ClassOfDeeDeronJames on December 19, 2020 @ 08:49 PM

Congrats Robert! This is what you are meant to do.

rduillini on December 19, 2020 @ 08:51 PM

Awesome, big Rob

PowerGranger on December 19, 2020 @ 09:31 PM

You the man. Great interview. So impressed that Bielma has already reached out to the head of IHSA coaches. Oh and, geese don’t go South anymore. At least not in Southern Wisconsin.

San Joaquin on December 19, 2020 @ 09:39 PM

Great work, Robert. Your hustle rewarded.

briddle on December 19, 2020 @ 09:39 PM

Great interview! I’m excited for the future of Illini football! Youve definitely earned this!

Tmc999 on December 19, 2020 @ 10:04 PM

Great interview. Can’t wait to hear the staff reveal to get the HS reparation tour rolling...

IBFan on December 19, 2020 @ 10:21 PM

Scoop Rosenthal


illveteran on December 19, 2020 @ 11:04 PM

Great work Robert

NC_OrangeKrush on December 20, 2020 @ 01:14 AM

Super Job Robert!

Brave Illini on December 20, 2020 @ 07:25 AM

It will be very interesting to see how big an uptick in season ticket sales results from this. And subscribers to IlliniBoard. Robert, this has to make you feel good about your career decision, so much more interesting, positive and fun things to write and talk about. I'm one of the 17 that is a bigger fan of Illinois football than basketball. We could be entering a new golden era for both basketball and football at Illinois.

aoneall on December 20, 2020 @ 08:33 AM

This one interview was worth the cost of the subscription. Thanks Robert!

lucasmeducas on December 20, 2020 @ 11:24 AM

Glad you got the interview Robert. I listened to your "We love no other" instant reaction with your two buddies. Whichever one of them that thinks Seth Coleman doesn't fit in a 3-4 scheme is off his rocker. Coleman is a perfect OLB in a 3-4 scheme. We will definitely need some NT's but we're actually doing moderately well personnel-wise contrary to what your buddies think.

MinnIllini on December 20, 2020 @ 03:36 PM

Robert Rosenthal. The Neil Armstrong of the Bret Bielema era at Illinois.

iggy on December 20, 2020 @ 04:03 PM

i'd be interested to see this transcribed if you get the time. thanks for your work, robert

Dave Peterson on December 20, 2020 @ 05:38 PM

You have to love it when Roughy brings guys on to talk about a topic, then just cuts them down when they try to share their thoughts. What a bully.

PosterNB12 on December 20, 2020 @ 07:08 PM

When do we get the first depth chart in a 3-4 defense?

thegoah on December 21, 2020 @ 10:37 PM

Who took the picture that heads the article?

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