Illinois conducted multiple interviews for its vacant head coaching position Monday and Tuesday and sources told FootballScoop that Bret Bielema was among them.
Bielema, of course, is well known in Big Ten country for his long run as Wisconsin's defensive coordinator and head coach. Taking over for Hall of Fame coach-turned-AD Barry Alvarez, Bielema went 68-24 with three AP Top 10 finishes and three Rose Bowl trips. He left after the 2012 season to become the head coach at Arkansas, where he lasted five seasons.
Bielema then spent two seasons with the New England Patriots and is now the outside linebackers coach for the New York Giants.
Bielema played at Iowa and grew up in Prophetstown, Ill., near the Iowa border.
"He was always willing to share his opinions, and he was very goal-oriented," Bielema's high school English teacher Jean Bliss told the Quad City Times upon his promotion to Wisconsin's head coach in 2006. "It doesn’t surprise me that he’s gone on to do great things."
Sources said Bielema has a strong interest in becoming a head coach again and is prepared jump on the right opportunity.
As an indicator of the level of interest in the Illinois job, other candidates linked to the job are Army head coach Jeff Monken, Wake Forest head coach Dave Clawson and Buffalo head coach Lance Leipold. Monken and Leipold's teams have games this weekend -- Army hosts Air Force for the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy on Saturday; Leipold and Buffalo meet Ball State for the MAC championship on Friday night -- while Clawson will lead Wake in an as-yet-determined bowl game.
We understand other candidates are involved in the search as well.
FootballScoop will provide more information on the Illinois search as it becomes available. In the meantime, stay tuned to The Scoop for the latest.