Barry Alvarez will be stopping to smell the roses on New Year’s Day…
The 65-year-old Latino football coach will return to the sidelines to lead the Wisconsin Badgers when they face No. 8 Stanford at the Rose Bowl on on January 1. Thursday’s announcement came two days after Bret Bielema stepped down to take over at Arkansas.
“I’m very excited about coming back,” said Alvarez. “This will be a one-game — I’m not looking to do it any longer than one game.”
Bielema’s departure was a shock, coming just three days after Wisconsin earned a school-record third straight trip to the Rose Bowl with a 70-31 beating of then-No. 14 Nebraska in the Big Ten championship game. But speculation immediately centered on Alvarez returning as coach, at least for one game.
His return will mean little disruption for players. Even though Alvarez stepped down as head coach after the 2005 season, he’s remained an integral part of the football program as Wisconsin’s athletic director and the team is comfortable with him. They won’t have to adapt to a new coaching style.
In fact, it was the players who convinced Alvarez to come back. Following Bielema’s announcement, Alvarez received messages from senior quarterback Curt Phillips and captain Mike Taylor, who said the players had met and decided they wanted him as their Rose Bowl coach.
“I told him I would be honored to coach them,” said Alvarez. “I wanted them to understand, if I was going to coach them, we weren’t going to screw around, we were going to go out there to win.”
Alvarez’s 118-73-4 record in 16 seasons coaching the Badgers includes a 3-0 mark in the Rose Bowls — Wisconsin’s only victories in eight trips to Pasadena.
During his tenure as head coach, Alvarez turned the program into one of the Big Ten‘s top teams. Wisconsin had had five straight losing seasons before Alvarez arrived in 1990, and posted a winning record in just six of the previous 26 seasons. After losing to USC in the 1963 Rose Bowl, Wisconsin would go 19 years without a bowl appearance.