By Adam Hoge-
(WSCR) Bret Bielema and Dave Doeren are very close friends, but they aren’t talking.
At least until Saturday.
When Bielema took over as head coach of the Wisconsin Badgers in 2006, he immediately hired Doeren as his co-defensive coordinator and recruiting coordinator. Two years later, he promoted him to defensive coordinator. And when the Northern Illinois head coaching job opened up last December, Bielema did everything in his power to help Doeren get the job even though they still had a Rose Bowl to play and despite the fact that NIU was on the 2011 schedule.
As a thank you — and because of his loyalty to the team — Doeren accepted the Northern Illinois job, but stayed on to coach the Badgers’ defense in the Rose Bowl.
LISTEN: Dave Doeren and Bret Bielema on The Mully and Hanley Show
Now the two friends will meet on the football field as the Badgers and Huskies clash Saturday at 2:30 p.m. at Soldier Field. Since the season started, the two have only exchanged a few text messages and they agreed not to talk to each other during the week of their game — with one exception.
The two coaches appeared together on The Mully and Hanley Show on 670 The Score Wednesday and expressed nothing but respect towards each other.
“Obviously I’m happy for those guys,” Doeren said. “I care a lot about all their coaches and players, but when the game starts, we both have jobs to do and I know we’ll both be professional in how we do our stuff. Every game but one we are going to root each other on, that’s for sure.”
Bielema echoed those sentiments.
“You lose a lot more friends in recruiting than you do on game days,” Bielema said. “We just have a mutual respect for the way we do things and hopefully the players admire the way both programs play as well”
The Badgers (2-0) come into the game ranked No. 7 in the country, while the Huskies (1-1) will be trying to rebound from a last minute loss at Kansas last week. The assumption is that Doeren has an advantage against the Badgers because he knows their personnel so well, but he downplayed that advantage Wednesday.
“Whenever you play teams like Wisconsin, they’re so good at what they do and they don’t try to hide it, and they are going to be sound and physical,” he said. “You’ve got to do what you do and they are going to do what they do. I mean, I know their players and things like that, but it still comes down to when they snap the ball, or we snap the ball, guys playing with fundamentals and technique and finishing plays.”
Both teams are excited to play at Soldier Field. Obviously the Huskies have a lot of players from the Chicagoland Area on the team, but Bielema said his players have some extra excitement about the game as well.
“We have a lot of kids from the Chicago area, but also for kids to play in a pro-venue, I myself grew up a Bears fan, I was never good enough to get on the field as a player so to get there finally as a coach is a fun opportunity,” Bielema said.
Saturday’s NIU-Wisconsin game can be heard on WSCR 670 The Score starting at 2 p.m. Tickets for the game are still available.