Why Bret Bielema Faces a Huge Year with Wisconsin Badgers Football in 2010

Sam OlesonCorrespondent IApril 14, 2010

MADISON, WI - SEPTEMBER 26: Head coach Bret Bielema of the Wisconsin Badgers gives instructions to O'Brien Schofield #50 during a game against the Michigan State Spartans on September 26, 2009 at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, Wisconsin. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

If there has been any one person who has frustrated University of Wisconsin fans, football or otherwise, over the past four years, it's Bret Bielema.

Not ex-Badger point guard Trevon Hughes, with his wild shots and stupid turnovers.

Not ex-Badger hockey goalie Shane Connelly, with goals pouring into the net at the worst possible times.

Not even ex-Badger quarterback Allen Evridge, who could possibly have been the worst Wisconsin quarterback in school history.

Despite what the previous three guys did to annoy, frustrate, and sometimes even enrage Badger fans during their times on various Wisconsin squads, no person has been the scapegoat more over the past four years than Wisconsin football coach Bret Bielema.

Whether it's his seemingly arrogant attitude, underachievement on the field (up until last year), or that windbreaker, no one seems to be on Badger fans' nerves more than Bielema.

He started off well—that's for sure. A school-record 12 wins and a Capital One Bowl victory? You couldn't ask for a better first year than that.

But the next two years saw more than one call for Bielema's job. In 2007-08, the Badgers went 9-4. Respectable, but somewhat of a disappointment considering the team got to as high as No. 5 in the polls that year.

You could just tell the feeling of frustration was beginning to rise despite a fairly successful season.

Then came 2008-09. Despite rising all the way into the top 10 in the polls early in the year, Wisconsin finished the year with a 7-6 record, including barely beating an FCS Cal Poly squad and suffering a 42-13 blowout loss to Florida State in the Champs Sports Bowl.

There wasn't a hotter seat in college football than Bielema's. The web site "FireBretBielema.com" was seeing its hits rise faster than Barry Alvarez's blood pressure.

But remarkably, despite low expectations, Wisconsin football turned it around in 2009. They had one of college football's best offenses and rattled off a 10-3 record, including an upset win over Miami in the Champs Sports Bowl.

So, the question going into the 2010 season is, how well do the Badgers have to do for Bielema to remain in Wisconsin fans' good graces?

Well, despite turning around the program from one of its worst seasons in a decade to a surprisingly successful one, if Bielema doesn't at least repeat last year's performance, the heat may be on once again.

With almost all key starters returning, Badger fans probably have their highest expectations since Ron Dayne was still lining up in the backfield.

Plus, many fans still think that Bielema is not the coach for this team.

"Yeah, he won 12 games in 2006, but that was with Alvarez's players. Look what happened the next two years. Heck, he's not even a true Badger. For heaven's sake, he went to Iowa ."

In 2009-10 Bielema took a huge step in proving that he may indeed be the coach for Wisconsin. He won his first bowl game since his initial year, and he did it with all of his own recruits.

That said, Wisconsin fans have a short memory. For a team that is supposed to contend for the Big Ten title next year, any missteps on his part and fans will be all over him once again. A couple losses in a row and all hell could break loose.

But if he can keep the team rolling and take them to the Promised Land (a.k.a. the Rose Bowl), he could secure his spot in Badger fans' hearts, much like Barry Alvarez did in the 1990s.

If he thought he would get a respite because of his success last year, he should think again.

For Bret Bielema, 2010 could be a make or break year.