Credit: Shanna Lockwood-USA TODAY Sports

After leaving the Big Ten for the SEC back in 2012, Bret Bielema is finally returning to the Big Ten as a head coach.

Illinois announced the hire of the New York Giants outside linebackers coach, and former Wisconsin and Arkansas head coach this morning. We shared earlier this week that Bielema interviewed for the opening early in the week.

The school shared the following in their release:

“Illinois and the Big Ten is home for me, and I can’t be any more excited about the opportunity in front of me with the Fighting Illini,” Bielema said. “We want to build a program that makes Illini Nation proud and regain the passion that I’ve seen when Illinois wins. We want the young men playing football in the state of Illinois from Freeport to Cairo and from Quincy to Danville dreaming of wearing the Orange and Blue and playing at Memorial Stadium. I look forward to re-connecting with the high school coaches around the state making it clear we intend to keep our players home.

“We will build an outstanding staff for both player development and recruiting. The University of Illinois has incredible facilities and is known as one of the world’s outstanding academic institutions. We will hold the young men on our team responsible both on and off the field while coaching them to be champions in life. Jen and I, along with our girls, are excited to get to Champaign-Urbana and get started on the journey. Go Illini!”

The release shares that Bielema’s initial contract is for six years starting off with an annual salary of $4.2 million. Bielema will leave his position with the Giants and will begin his duties at Illinois immediately. He will attend today’s game against Penn State as a guest of athletic director Josh Whitman.

After being dismissed at Arkansas, Bielema landed in the NFL with Bill Belichick and the Patriots in an off-field role. This past season he spent on the staff of Joe Judge with the New York Giants coaching the outside linebackers.

At Wisconsin, Bielema won 40 games in his last four seasons, compiling a 7-year record of 68-24 with the Badgers winning the Big Ten multiple times. He was not able to duplicate that success at Arkansas, going 29-34 over five seasons, including an 11-29 mark in the unforgiving SEC.

Other candidates that were being considered, per sources, at Illinois were Lance Leipold (Buffalo), Jeff Monken (Army), and Dave Clawson (Wake Forest).

There have been a total of ten FBS head coaching jobs come open so far, and three remain open. Keep track of all head coaching movement from the NFL and college football via this page.

Stay tuned to The Scoop for the latest.

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