Found December 31, 2011 on Fox Sports Wisconsin:
LOS ANGELES Neither Bret Bielema nor Chip Kelly is considered an "up-and-coming" college football coach at this stage of his career. Both men have settled into their 40s, and they've experienced enough success to be hailed as consistent winners in a profession that demands instant gratification. But a gray area exists in which both coaches fall that keeps them from hobnobbing with the elite active coaches in the game. It is an area some believe can be altered considerably with a Rose Bowl victory on Monday. Bielema, the sixth-year Wisconsin coach, and Kelly, in his third season at Oregon, have zero BCS bowl victories combined. Bielema is 0-1, and Kelly is 0-2 in such games.Both have reached the Rose Bowl twice in the past three seasons. Bielema's Badgers are making a second consecutive trip, and Kelly's Ducks have sandwiched a national championship game berth between Rose Bowl appearances.When Wisconsin (11-2) plays Oregon (11-2) on Monday, one coach will leave Rose Bowl Stadium with a win that could go a long way toward validating himself on a national level, even if neither man wishes to admit as much. When asked this week what it would mean to Kelly to finally win a BCS game, he routinely replied: "It would mean we are 1-2 in BCS games."There is flawed logic in putting so much stock into this game, of course, because Bielema and Kelly have been tremendously successful by every other measure. Bielema is 60-18 in six seasons at Wisconsin. Kelly is 33-6 in three seasons at Oregon.Still, nothing pads a resume and strokes an ego quite like a victory in one of the premier bowl games.Among the many differences between the two coaches is that Bielema at least appears willing to consider the implications of what winning a BCS game would mean not only for the program but also for his own legacy. He makes a point to use losses last season's Rose Bowl and the two last-minute defeats at midseason as fuel for moving forward and dwells on their importance with players."This is the feeling that you'll have in your mouth for the next seven to eight months until we get ready for our opener a year from now," Bielema said. "The fact that our kids were here a year ago, that they have come back to that same place and to finish it differently, I think, is a major thought process in our guys' minds."Kelly, meanwhile, doesn't outwardly give a second thought to such catastrophic defeats, including last season's 22-19 last-second loss against Auburn for the national title."We've always been a forward-thinking operation," Kelly said. "To say we have to be motivated Monday because of something that happened last January, I can't get some of our kids to remember what happened yesterday in practice, let alone what happened in January."Other variances exist between the two men, including in their coaching backgrounds.Kelly, 48, learned his trade on the East Coast, breaking in as an assistant coach at Columbia University in the early 1990s. He went on to become an offensive coordinator at New Hampshire from 1999-2006 before switching coasts to Oregon as offensive coordinator for two seasons.When then-Oregon coach Mike Bellotti was promoted to athletic director, Kelly moved into the head coaching role in 2009.Bielema, 41, has spent his entire career in the Midwest, starting as a graduate assistant at Iowa under Hayden Fry and working his way up through the ranks on the defensive side of the ball. He became a linebackers coach at Iowa and later defensive coordinator at Kansas State and then Wisconsin before taking over as head coach when Barry Alvarez stepped down in 2005.Bielema and Kelly's coaching styles are drastically different as well based on their coaching backgrounds. Oregon runs a no-huddle, hurry-up spread offense that scores before fans can return from the bathroom. Wisconsin employs a smash-mouth, pro-style power offense that allows fans to take bathroom breaks and snag a pretzel and nachos from the concession stand.But there are similarities between the two men that have led to their successes, too. Both are intense about their preparation each week and both are fiercely loyal to their inner circle. They have each been dubbed players coaches because of their devotion to members of the team."I'm different with our players because I trust our players and I'm with them every day, and I understand what they're all about," Kelly said. "And I'm like that with everybody. It ain't going to be Kumbaya and hug you the first time I meet you. But if I see you every day and understand what you're about and that you share the same vision that I have, then I'll die for you."Badgers quarterback Russell Wilson, who transferred in the offseason after attending North Carolina State, said part of what sold him on Wisconsin was Bielema's genuine interest in him as a person."The best thing about coach is he's so outgoing and tries to get to know the players," Wilson said. "He got to know me really quickly. He's like a best friend, you know, to be honest with you. He gets to know you but at the same time he makes you work. He wants to see the best out of you. He wants to see the best out of all the players, and he wants to see the best out of his program, and that's the exciting part about him."Bielema and Kelly don't cross paths often because they play in different time zones and different conferences. But Bielema can clearly see their commonalities."The people that knew both of us kind of said all along, Hey you guys would hit it off good,' " Bielema said. "Last year I met him in New York. At the time we were both bachelors. Maybe there was a common bond there. I love the fact that in his coaching pedigree, he just kept working, kept winning, kept having success. He eventually got his opportunity to be on the biggest stage possible and has taken it and run with it. He seems to me to be a guy that rolls with the punches like I do."By nightfall on Monday, both Bielema and Kelly will have to roll with the punches when they emerge from Rose Bowl Stadium. Neither will leave a different coach, but perceptions about their coaching ability will hinge on which one wins and which lets another year pass without a BCS bowl game victory. Follow Jesse Temple on Twitter
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