University of Wisconsin football coach Bret Bielema made an admittedly risky move when he replaced a veteran offensive line coach in Mike Markuson with an unproven graduate assistant in Bart Miller.

It has the makings of a boom-or-bust decision, something capable of turning around the Badgers' season, or blowing up in Bielema's face.

When asked during his Monday news conference for the worst-case scenario, Bielema said, "We don't get better."

Bielema didn't want to let that happen, which is why he made the radical decision of getting rid of Markuson only two games into his tenure. It would not have been done, Bielema said, without somebody like Miller waiting in the wings.

"I don't know if I would have made the move if I didn't feel so good about (Markuson's) replacement," Bielema said.

Until now, even some people close to the program knew little about Miller. The media guide lists his title as an offensive quality control coach, but he became a graduate assistant on Aug. 1, when the NCAA made a rule change allowing teams to go from two to four GAs.

"Really, GA now is just an underpaid coach," Bielema said.

Bielema likes to hire GAs with ties to the program. The only ties Miller had were to former offensive line coach Bob Bostad, having played under him at New Mexico and worked under him last year. Miller started his coaching career in 2010 as a graduate assistant at New Mexico State before coming to UW as a quality control coach last season.

Miller made such a quick impression, Bielema claimed he thought about hiring him as offensive line coach after Bostad left following the Rose Bowl. Bostad originally went to the University of Pittsburgh before becoming the offensive line coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

It seems preposterous that Bielema would have considered filling one of the most coveted offensive line jobs in the country with somebody who had two years of experience in GA-type jobs. Bielema said the only thing that stopped him was he also planned to promote another GA, Ben Strickland, to coach the secondary.

"I just didn't feel I could name two GAs to full-time status (to) gain the continuity I wanted," Bielema said. "Now as a head coach, I realize I probably could have and been ... further along if I had, because there wouldn't have been as big a transition."

Make no mistake, Markuson, 51, is a highly respected offensive line coach. He spent the last 14 seasons coaching Arkansas and Ole Miss and has produced six different All-Americans since 2003. Bielema praised Markuson's personality and said that wasn't an issue with the players.

"I think personality is what made me attracted to him early on and felt really strong (about him)," Bielema said, "He's engaging, he's very, very cognizant of the history here at Wisconsin, a guy that's really easy to get along with, which probably made the decisions I had to make that much more difficult."

But something didn't click between Markuson and his players, almost from the start. Sources have said the players didn't fully embrace the techniques Markuson taught them.

Whatever the reason, the offensive line got manhandled in the 10-7 loss Saturday at Oregon State, something that seldom happens at UW. It concerned Bielema enough to act quickly and not wait until the end of the season.

Apparently, none of the assistant coaches saw this coming. The first two people Bielema told were offensive coordinator Matt Canada and running backs coach Thomas Hammock. "They were taken aback," Bielema said.

As for delivering the news to Markuson, Bielema called it, "a very civil conversation, one I think we both will take with us for a long time."

Bielema said getting rid of coaches is something he never takes lightly because "it changes their lives forever." He said the decision was "something that weighed on my heart."

Perhaps the most telling thing Bielema said about Miller was referring to him as a "bridge" to the Bostad era. It seemed clear Bielema wants to get back to doing things the way they were done when Bostad coached the offensive line the previous four years.

"(Miller) can be that guy because he's been taught the techniques as a player (under Bostad), but also, witnessed them as a coach," Bielema said.

That's a lot of faith to place on a generally untested coach, with the Badgers' season possibly hanging in the balance.

"I'm not naive to the fact, we're not going to turn into what we've fortunately been able to accomplish in the past, overnight," Bielema said. "But we're going to take some baby steps. And my guess is we're going to have a great amount of change in a short amount of time."

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(19) comments


Why is it that all the idiots post here? Wait.. I mean all posts here are by idiots.. No, idiots make all the posts... While I resemble these remarks all I can say is that the coach might possibly have a better read on things than the collective brain trust that posts here. GO BUCKY!


Wow a cooler head travails! Thanks (no) we all needed these words of wisdom.


Wow. What a bunch of panicky comments. Bold move by BB. Folks get fired every day. Next.


I am surprised at the negativitiy directed toward BB. Do you really think this decision was made without consulting BA first? I would not be surprised if marching orders came from BA to make this move. BA is planning on reseating Camp Randall and knows he will experience even greater backlash if the product on the field is not performing.


What was bold about that move? More desperate than anything.


I can remember a time when a 7-4 record and an invitation to any bowl was a great season. Have we become so jaded that a coach comming off back to back Big 10 championships is a "loser" when he hits a momentary rough spot? Have Badger fans really turned into the kind of fans we used to ridicule?


No, I don't think so. As a program grows from being only modestly (and occasionally) successful to being consistently successful, fan expectations grow too. A back-to-back Big 10 Conference Champion team shouldn't look as awful as the Badger offense has looked so far this season. A Heisman trophy candidate should look far better than Monte Ball has looked so far this year. It's hard to turn a losing program around (look at the challenges our Big 10 comrades Minnesota, Illinois, etc. are facing). It's just as hard keeping a top-performing team consistently good. We've been trained to expect MORE than a mediocre 7-4 team going to a rinky dink bowl - especially with a team loaded with returning starters.


I'm not a big Bielema fan, but give him credit for making a bold decision. His gambling instincts win out again. Before we throw him under the bus, consider what the reaction would be if we were put through another game like the last two with no apparent response.


@BobsYourUncle ---- I will correct you since your wrong. Markuson was just hired in January. He was struggling to work with the players and the results on the field were terrible.


The Emperor has no clothes! Markuson must have been perceived to be a threat to BB and Bret needs some young Graduate Assistant to be beholden to him.

Coach Chryst, come back!


This is not going to be a.quick fix. This a huge distraction, it will require the entire offensive
Staff to really dig deep for a game plan that can somehow accommodate a defunct OL. In other words keep it simple stupid! In otherworldly Canada will need to dig out some old Chryst game plans from the archives......we shall see.
Realistically a change like this could take at least 3 week's to undo and correct.

In the mean time the D will need to carry this team. And that's a little shaky in spots too.


bielema needs to look in the mirror, or better yet alvarez needs to find a new coach.the defense has sucked on the pass for years.the corners play 10 yards off the line and the whole defense have always beens piss poor tacklers


The last sure tackler the Badgers had was Jim Leonhard


Watch what happens Badger fans. It ain't good when the boss starts throwing people under the bus. Situations like this one rarely end well, and BB just doesn't have the character to do it right.


BDTR, BB throwing people under the bus, is nothing new. He has been throwing students, fans, players, coaches, refs, NCAA, former players, Mother Thersa,and, possibly, the Dali Lama, under the bus since he arrived in Madison. This is nothing knew for the 'personally appointed replacement" for another arrogant coach. I'm quite confident that you'll figure out who that coach is...!:)

Super Chunk

Well at least they'll be able to finish their season before January.


Man, is this program falling apart. Talk about scape goating. Alvarez had better wake up and take a critical look at the way the bread winning program is being run. I am fully aware of the record Bielema has run up--including his inability to win poll games. Most of the success the program did have was the direct result of Paul Chryst and his group of offensive coaches. This is now becoming painfully apparent, although I felt this was the case before now. At best this speaks of panic and desperation. I mean they have been practicing now for 1 1/2 months and he just now realises his offensive line coach is inadequate--what a joke.


Correct me if I'm wrong, but, didn't BB pile similar praise on Markuson last year? Didn't he also praise himself for his 'wise beyond his coaching years' ability to make the correct decision everytime! It's gonna be a fun year to watch BB firefighting his problem flameups!!


What an embarrassment.

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