MADISON, Wis. -- Barry Alvarez eliminated all the surprise
and speculation -- his 16th season as Wisconsin coach will be his
Alvarez said Thursday he will step down after this year and
focus solely on his role as the school's athletic director, a job
he took on in 2004. And he's already picked his successor in
defensive coordinator Bret Bielema.
When Alvarez assumed both positions in April 2004, he said he
planned to eventually transition into a full-time athletic
director. But he gave no clue as to how much longer he would coach.
It took just a year for double-duty to take its toll because of
the constant demands on his time.
"I believe it's the right time," Alvarez said at a news
conference. "I certainly didn't want it to slip, and I just saw
some potential for things."
Alvarez, 58, was hired in 1990 to turn around a program that had
only five winning seasons in the 27 years before he came on board.
Three seasons later, Alvarez led Wisconsin to its first Rose Bowl
since 1963, one of three Rose Bowl titles in his tenure. Alvarez is
the winningest coach in school history with a mark of 108-70-4 in
15 seasons. He is 7-3 in bowl games.
Alvarez's teams have been defined by a punishing ground games
and a stout defenses, both keys to their three Rose Bowl wins. His
squads set a Big Ten record with 10 straight seasons with a 1,000
yard rusher, including Heisman Trophy winner Ron Dayne.
Alvarez brought in Bielema last year to take over Wisconsin's
defense, which ranked in the top 10 nationally in points (15.4) and
yards (291.2) allowed.
Alvarez said he first approached Bielema about taking over
earlier this summer. The combination of family, the
responsibilities of two jobs and his confidence in Bielema
convinced him it was time for him to give up coaching.
"Bret Bielema is the right man to replace me," Alvarez said.
Quarterback John Stocco said the Badgers will be motivated to
make Alvarez's last season memorable.
"We talk about how successful Coach Alvarez has been and what
he's done for the program," Stocco said. "Knowing this is his
last year, it's just going to make us work harder to make sure he
goes out on the right note."
Despite Alvarez's on-field success, the Badgers have had a
series of problems off the field over the last five years.
Wisconsin was slapped by the NCAA with a major rules violation
under Alvarez's watch in 2000, resulting in the suspensions of 26
football players for receiving unadvertised discounts at a shoe
store. Another 21 were required to do community service for
breaking NCAA rules. A series of Badger players have had run-ins
with police over the last several years as well.
Bielema and Alvarez both have connections to former Iowa coach
Alvarez got his first college coaching job under Fry in 1979
before a stint at Notre Dame under Lou Holtz.
Bielema, 35, played under Fry at Iowa before serving as a
graduate assistant and eventually an assistant coach on his staff.
He later coached under Kirk Ferentz at Iowa and Bill Snyder at
Kansas State -- both of whom coached for Fry as well -- before
Alvarez brought him in last year.
"I was just glad to finally work for a guy that gave me the
job," said Bielema, who has no head coaching experience.
Alvarez said he expected no problems in the transition and
decided to make the announcement now to avoid any problems later.
This way, Bielema gets a full year to work on his first recruiting
Alvarez also said he had no plans to be a meddlesome athletic
director, preferring to follow in the example of his college coach,
Bob Devaney of Nebraska.
Devaney held both jobs before stepping down to become a
full-time athletic director. He then hired assistant Tom Osborne to
take over the program and stayed out of the way.