- Adam Rittenberg, ESPN Staff Writer
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Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
MADISON, Wis. -- Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema often says he'd rather deal with high expectations than low expectations or, even worse, no expectations.
After Bielema's wins total has dropped in each of the last two seasons -- from 12 to 9 to 7 -- the coach knows the demand for improvement around the Badgers program is growing louder.
"The good news is, at Wisconsin, 7-6 is a disappointment," he said Tuesday.
Just a year removed from back-to-back January bowl appearances, Bielema has been mentioned by some as a coach on the hot seat. Now let me be clear: I don't think Bielema is in danger of losing his job. He hasn't had a losing season like Notre Dame's Charlie Weis, Virginia's Al Groh or even Michigan's Rich Rodriguez, who also will get time to build his program.
And as disappointing as Wisconsin looked last fall, the Badgers were three plays away from winning three more games (Michigan, Ohio State, Michigan State).
"You can't change people's opinions," said Bielema, whose contract runs through Jan 31, 2014. "The only thing you can do is change what the results are. As a head coach, to have a 12-1 and a 9-4 and a 7-6 record, you're going to a bowl game every year, but you also understand that because you're at Wisconsin, our standards are at the highest level possible. That's where I want them to be.
"I don't feel anything from the outside world. I just know what I want to accomplish, and sometimes that's better."
Bielema also knows exactly what his boss expects. Unlike some head coaches and athletic directors, who essentially operate in different worlds, Bielema and Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez have walked the same path.
Alvarez tabbed Bielema as his successor when he retired from coaching the Badgers, and the two remain very close. They talk daily and take a walk together every Thursday during the season, discussing everything from football to current events.
"He lets you do your job," Bielema said. "He'll give you critique and analysis and give input to things that he sees, but he doesn't necessarily say, 'Hey, do this.' It's more of, 'Here's something I see. Food for thought.'
"A lot of times I'll go to him for advice, proactively, probably 95 percent of the time. Very seldom do we have reactive conversations. It's a little bit unique to the world of college football."