Monday, August 17, 2009

Did Bret Bielema grow a conscience?

For a guy not exactly known as a disciplinarian, Bret Bielema came down pretty hard on his two starting safeties this week:
Wisconsin has suspended safeties Aubrey Pleasant and Shane Carter. Coach Bret Bielema did not say in his statement on Saturday why the two seniors were being suspended.
Pleasant and Carter apparently weren't too thrilled: Both have publicly proclaimed that they've done nothing wrong and have appealed to the school (along with threatening to bring in lawyers) to have their suspensions lifted, which I can't say I've ever heard of before. The two seniors have started a combined 34 games at safety in their careers, although Jay Valai and Chris Maragos had pulled even atop the depth chart in spring practice. There's no word as to exactly what caused the suspensions, so it's kind of difficult to know how long "indefinite" might actually turn out to be, but any extended period of time and Wisconsin will be battling a real lack of depth in the secondary.

This all makes it especially surprising that the two were suspended at all: Bielema's history has been one of "internal" punishments that resulted in little or no playing time lost for any of Wisconsin's players. I know some coaches are just a little more lax than others, but Bielema's problems started early on in his tenure and have bothered me ever since.

In his first season (2006), when Wisconsin traveled to Ann Arbor to play Michigan, Bielema ignored the mid-week arrest of linebacker Elijah Hodge on suspicion of stealing a moped and allowed him to play. Then, during the fourth quarter of the same game, special-teams gunner James Kamoku was involved in one of the dirtiest plays in recent memory, grabbing the knee of UM punt returner Steve Breaston after the play was over and twisting it as far as possible. This was captured by ESPN's cameras and roundly criticized by everyone, and Bielema's response was this:
"I don't think there was any particular thing directed at Breaston," Bielema said Tuesday during the Big Ten Conference coaches' teleconference. "He had had a very successful day and our coverage unit had had some struggles. Everything boiled up at that minute. I've seen what everybody has seen on film. I addressed it with James and I'm going to handle those things internally."

When asked if Kamoku would play Saturday at Indiana, Bielema reiterated: "I'm handling those things internally."
When your own fans think it's ridiculous that such a dirty play can be let go without a suspension, you know you have a problem.

And the worst part is that the lack of discipline is just one aspect of his douchebag repertoire. Jump ahead to the 2008 Champs Sports Bowl and you have complaints from Florida State about inappropriate remarks and gestures from Wisconsin players at the luncheon before the game followed by Bielema blowing off Bobby Bowden's handshake attempt (something Bielema has been known to do) after FSU's 42-13 ass-whooping. Oh, and then there's the classy recruiting letters Bielema sends out to high schoolers that include this beauty of a line:
P.S. -- IF YOU KNOW OF ANY OTHER RECRUITS IOWA IS GOING AFTER, PLEASE SEND THEM OUR WAY.
It should be noted that Bielema played and was an assistant at Iowa. In summary, the guy is an ass.

I didn't really mean for this post to turn into a catalog of Bielema's unsportsmanlike actions, so let get me get back to where I started: I have no idea what Pleasant and Carter did to earn their suspensions or whether the punishment was deserving at all, but if their absence somehow ends up costing Wisconsin a game or three, I certainly won't be crying about it.

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