The day after Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema left his job in Madison to take the head coaching position at Arkansas, Bielema announced that former Badgers football coach and current athletic director Barry Alvarez will coach the team in the Rose Bowl against Stanford.
A member of the College Football Hall of Fame, Alvarez doesn’t lack for experience in Pasadena, having led the Badgers to three Rose Bowl wins in 1994, 1999 and 2000 (when he beat Stanford 17-9). He retired from coaching 2005, turning the program over to his handpicked successor, Bielema, but has been the athletic director at Wisconsin since 2004.
According to the Wisconsin State Journal, a source close to Alvarez said the team’s captains reached out to Alvarez and asked him to coach the team against Stanford on Jan. 1. Alvarez told them he would be “honored” to do so.
In many ways, Alvarez was the perfect choice at the perfect moment for Badgers fans, who have been buzzing about the possibility of bringing back the coach who sparked Wisconsin’s recent 15-year run of success for an encore in the Rose Bowl. When Alvarez arrived in Madison before the 1990 season, he inherited one of the Big Ten’s worst programs. Sixteen seasons later, he had three Rose Bowl trophies, a place in the College Football Hall of Fame and a bronze statue of him outside Camp Randall Stadium.
His reputation stands in stark contrast to Bielema’s, particularly at the moment with questions swirling about Bielema’s departure. He reportedly wanted to coach the Rose Bowl after leaving for Arkansas, according to some reports, which irked many Badgers fans. And then there was the revelation from Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long that Bielema had sent him a letter in September, a rare and seemingly shifty move for any coach.
In any case, his return to the sidelines to face Stanford on New Year’s Day will assuredly fire up his players, who suffered through an up-and-down 8-5 season in the Big Ten that was marked by several losses in close games.