Wisconsin rewards Bielema with five-year, $7.5M deal

Updated: February 9, 2007, 3:18 PM ET
Associated Press

MADISON, Wis. -- Wisconsin football coach Bret Bielema was rewarded Friday for his highly successful first season with a new five-year, $7.5 million contract.

The University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents approved an amended contract on Friday that will increase Bielema's salary from $750,000 to $1.3 million this year.

Bielema, who guided the Badgers to a 12-1 record after taking over from Barry Alvarez, will be guaranteed a $100,000 salary increase every year under the deal. The contract will run through Jan. 31, 2012.

Bielema, at 37 the second-youngest head coach in NCAA Division I-A, led the Badgers to the most victories in school history, a tie for second place in the Big Ten and a 17-14 victory over Arkansas in the Capital One Bowl. The Badgers finished at No. 7 in The Associated Press poll.

"I'm very grateful that the university administration and the regents have shown this level of confidence in our program," Bielema said in a statement. "I appreciate their support and I will work -- along with my staff -- to justify that confidence by continuing to help our student-athletes grow academically, athletically and socially."

The raise will bring Bielema's salary up from near the bottom of Big Ten coaches to the middle, said Walter Dickey, chair of the Athletic Board.

He said the raise rewards Bielema for a stellar season and demonstrates the university's commitment to keeping him even as coaches' salaries skyrocket.

"We're recognizing where this market is going," Dickey said. "We'd like him to stay, and we'd like to avoid a bidding war in the future. We thought both reward and prudence dictated that we give him a significant raise with the idea that in the long-run this is in everybody's interest."

The deal guarantees Bielema a base salary of $400,000, plus $900,000 from department program revenue. That amount will increase by $100,000 every year.

The amendment replaces a five-year, $4 million contract that ran through 2011. That deal guaranteed him $750,000 in salary every year, which would have increased by $25,000 per year. Bielema also earned $50,000 for the bowl game and $10,000 for being named Big Ten coach of the year under the contract's bonus provision.

Alvarez, who remains the university's athletics director, said Bielema "had a terrific first season, one that made us the envy of many universities nationally."

"He did it through hard work, by setting high standards on the field and in the classroom and by refusing to compromise on his values," Alvarez said in a statement.

Alvarez tapped Bielema as his successor when he announced his retirement as coach in 2005. Bielema spent two years as defensive coordinator under Alvarez and worked as an assistant at Kansas State and Iowa before coming to Wisconsin.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press