By TOM LEA
MADISON – If the ongoing police investigation involving Wisconsin’s star running back Montee Ball turns against the Badgers Heisman hopeful, Bret Bielema’s track record suggest he would treat his All-American tailback as he has star players in the past.
Though he’s probably the best player in the Big Ten and arguably one of the top three to five players nationally, Ball, should his involvement in a preliminary fight that eventually led to his mugging last week become greater than it is currently believed to be, would be in line for some punishment.
To what extent remains unknown, but Bielema, with a stern voice, made it clear he’s never been afraid to discipline star players.
“I told the team (Sunday) night,” Bielema said. “If anybody has an indication of what I will or will not do, go back on my personal record when I threw our two starting safeties off the program for things I felt strongly about.
“And (I) didn’t blink an eye so I don’t have a problem saying that.”
The two safeties Bielema alluded to were Shane Carter and Aubrey Pleasant, two players that had started in a combined 34 games before being booted from the team just days before the beginning of the 2009 regular season.
Bielema has also booted Lance Smith, a highly touted running back prospect, from his program as well as Kraig Appleton, Shelby Harris and Jake Irwin, all for various reasons, during his six seasons as the head coach.
Ball is expected to make a full recovery and is currently on track to start the season opener against Northern Iowa on Sept. 1.
“I don’t expect to go through my entire coaching career without some of these things popping up,” Bielema said. “And I know that I recruit kids of high quality, high character. You know if there’s a situation that a couple guys are involved with I told every one of them, ‘Hey, if you did something to ring the bell you’re going to have to pay the price.’
“I’ll let the police work this out and give us the direction that we need to go in and move forward.”
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