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The Barry Alvarez Football Era, 1990-2005
University of Wisconsin Head Football Coach and Director of Athletics Barry Alvarez, the winningest coach in school history and the architect of three Rose Bowl championship teams, announced Thursday that he will step down from his coaching position at the conclusion of the 2005 season.
Alvarez said that second-year Wisconsin defensive coordinator Bret Bielema (BEE-luh-muh) will replace him as head coach in January 2006. Alvarez will remain the Badgers’ Director of Athletics.
The 58-year-old Alvarez is one of two men in Division I-A athletics (UAB’s Watson Brown is the other) serving in the dual role of Director of Athletics and Head Football Coach. He assumed both duties on April 1, 2004, when Wisconsin A.D. Pat Richter retired.
“I’ve had the opportunity to do both jobs and it’s been a great challenge, a privilege and a true pleasure,” said Alvarez, whose own college coach Bob Devaney served in a similar dual role at Nebraska. “I feel like we’ve done a good job in handling the responsibilities of both positions, but the demands certainly take a toll.”
Alvarez emphasized that the timing of his decision and announcement will be beneficial for both this year’s team and the transition into the future.
“I’m very excited about the coming season,” said Alvarez, who enters his last year with a 108-70-4 career record. “Our players and my staff have worked hard this summer in preparation for the fall. I couldn’t be more focused on the preparations for this season.
“Certainly, sharing this news prior to the season will ease the transition for our players, the staff and Bret (Bielema). The only change I’ve made in regard to duties is that Bret is overseeing our recruiting efforts. It’s important for us to maintain momentum, and continuity in our recruiting efforts.”
When Alvarez was named head football coach in 1990, he inherited a club that was a perennial second-division finisher and had averaged just two wins per season during the three years prior to his arrival. One of the ironies of his hiring at Wisconsin was that Alvarez had established a professional goal of becoming a college head coach by his 42nd birthday. When he was named to the UW post, it was three days after he turned 42.
As Alvarez enters his final season on the Badger sidelines, he does so with a coaching resume that is the best in school history. Here are a few of the remarkable accomplishments of his tenure …
* Coached three Big Ten and Rose Bowl championship teams.
* Only Big Ten coach in history to win consecutive Rose Bowls and one of just two coaches (Ohio State’s Woody Hayes is the other) to win at least three Rose Bowl games.
* Became just the 10th coach in league history with at least 100 wins at one conference institution.
* Coached five national award winners, including Ron Dayne (Heisman Trophy, Doak Walker and Maxwell Awards), Jamar Fletcher (Jim Thorpe Award) and Kevin Stemke (Ray Guy Award).
* Led UW to the three winningest (11 in 1998 and 10 in 1993 and 1999) seasons in the history of the school.
* Registered a 7-3 bowl record.
Alvarez, a former assistant coach at both Notre Dame and Iowa, brought stability to the sidelines in Madison. Three men had served as Badger head coach in the five seasons before he came to campus. As Alvarez enters his last season, his 16-year tenure is the nation’s sixth-longest at one school (Joe Paterno, Bobby Bowden, Fisher DeBerry, Frank Beamer and Bill Snyder are the five with longer tenures).
Alvarez coached on the defensive side of the ball for his entire college career, but his Badger teams won by excelling on offense, defense and special teams. Three of his clubs ranked in the top 10 nationally in rushing offense, the 1998 team led the nation in scoring defense and ranked fifth in total defense and the Badgers were also nationally ranked for their net punting prowess (1st in 2000) and punt return proficiency (9th in 1998 and 8th in 2003).
One of the key by-products of his team’s success was a remarkable increase at the box office. Camp Randall Stadium was filled to just over 50 percent of capacity when he announced at his introductory press conference in 1990 that fans “better get season tickets right now because before long they won’t be able to.” Wisconsin has averaged more than 75,000 fans per home game for 11 straight seasons and sold more than 60,000 season tickets in eight of the last nine years. For the first time in UW history, there was no single-game sale of football tickets this summer because the tickets are gone.
The rebuilding effort of the Badger program is one of the truly most sensational in college history. Alvarez has been recognized as the national coach of the year twice (1993 by the Bobby Dodd Foundation and the American Football Coaches Association and in 1999 when he received a Victor Award). The two-time Big Ten Coach of the Year was a finalist for ESPN’s College Coach of the Decade for the 1990s.
Alvarez as Athletic Director
While Alvarez was coaching, he always had a keen interest in the administrative side of the Athletic Department. Richter named him to his Management Team in 2000. When Richter announced his plans to retire, Alvarez took on the Athletic Director responsibilities. After a one-year transition with Richter still on board, Alvarez began his dual role tenure 16 months ago.
The recently completed academic year was a successful debut for Alvarez as A.D. The Badgers finished 19th nationally (its best in six years) in the Directors’ Cup (an all-sports ranking), more than half of the student-athletes (52.3 percent) registered 3.0 grade-point averages and the division set new standards for annual giving, ticket sales and sponsorship support. Additionally, the department opened the Porter Boathouse and is nearing completion of a 109 million renovation of Camp Randall Stadium.
“I look forward with great enthusiasm to my future as the Badger Athletic Director,” said Alvarez. “However, being a successful football coach is the first step toward being a successful A.D. With football training camp around the corner, I must emphasize my commitment to and enthusiasm for the coming football season.”
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