“Illinois and the Big Ten is home for me, and I can’t be any more excited about the opportunity in front of me with the Fighting Illini,” Bielema said in a statement.
“We want to build a program that makes Illini Nation proud and regain the passion that I’ve seen when Illinois wins. … I look forward to re-connecting with the high school coaches around the state making it clear we intend to keep our players home.”
Bielema’s initial contract is for six years beginning with a salary of $4.2 million.
“Bret’s blue collar work ethic and genuine, authentic manner will allow him to form strong connections to his players and staff and positive relationships in our community and our state,” Director of Athletics Josh Whitman said.
“These qualities, combined with his commitment to education and his track record of success, give me great confidence in his leadership of our football program.”
Bielema was the head coach at Arkansas from 2013-2017, where he was less successful, but he went to three consecutive bowl games before leaving for the NFL. He spent two seasons with the Patriots before he started his role with the Giants.