CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) — Illinois signed coach Bret Bielema to a new six-year contract through 2028 on Tuesday, a big reward for transforming a struggling program into a winner in his second season.
Bielema, 13-11 with Illinois, gets a bump in salary from $4.2 million to $6 million. The deal, which is pending approval by the school's board of trustees in January, includes various bonuses like a $500,000 annual retention incentive. He is also eligible for four one-year extensions if certain performance thresholds — which were not disclosed in the announcement — are met.
“I am proud of the progress we have made in two years and I could not be more excited about where our program is going,” Bielema said in a statement.
The Illini (8-4, 5-4 Big Ten) are wrapping up their best season since the 2007 Rose Bowl team won nine games. They were ranked in the AP Top 25 poll for five straight weeks and made the College Football Playoff rankings for the first time. They're set to face Mississippi State in the ReliaQuest Bowl on Jan. 2 in Tampa, Florida, after finishing with losing records the previous 10 years.
The 52-year-old Bielema, who led Wisconsin to three Rose Bowls before a disappointing run at Arkansas, is 110-69 in 14 seasons as a college coach. He is from western Illinois.
“He has assembled an exceptional staff, developed the existing players on our roster, and recruited talented student-athletes to join our program," Illinois athletic director Josh Whitman said. "He has worked tirelessly, with an eye for detail and tremendous competitive urgency, to set a new standard of excellence for Fighting Illini Football. Perhaps most importantly, he has brought an immediate identity to our football program and represented the University of Illinois with class, humility, and confidence."
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