When Brett Bielema left Wisconsin for Arkansas, athletic director Barry Alvarez stepped in to coach the team in its Rose Bowl appearance this January. The 65 year old Alvarez was the head coach of the Badgers from 1990 to 2005 before retiring and naming Bielema his successor. Alvarez’s return as interim coach for one game was mostly viewed as a pleasant, if retro, surprise for Wisconsin fans who were essentially abandoned by Bielema for, shall we say, specious reasons.
Now it appears that Alvarez likes his new/old gig and is considering hiring himself as head coach for the 2013 season.
I love this idea. Mainly because it would cause utter chaos for Wisconsin’s football team. Not only is there no way Alvarez would coach for more than a few years at most, he has to replace members of Bielema’s staff who have departed for other jobs. One of those new hires would either have to be Alvarez’s coach in waiting once he re-retires. If not, no sensible assistant would take that job because whomever Alvarez does hire would want their own staff in there if they weren’t already the coach in waiting.
The best case scenario with Alvarez as head coach is his stating it is a one-year gig until he can hire the coach he wants (most likely Pitt’s Paul Chryst), and just being the caretaker for a year. Badger fans love the nostalgia, the team plays reasonably well, and then the new guy takes over. This by no means solves the problem of hiring assistants or recruiting, but at least there is a stable head coach in place.
Because let’s face it, unless Alvarez can make a major score (hint: not Mike Riley), there aren’t a whole lot of great head coaches available who haven’t already found jobs they want. This means Wisconsin is left choosing between the dregs that are left or trying to steal some one else’s prized assistant or even going after one of the people who have just begun new jobs at new schools. Chryst may have been too principled to leave Pitt after a year, but other coaches don’t feel such allegiance to their jobs.
In any case. Bielema put Wisconsin in a terrible position when he left, and the reverberations are going to be felt for years to come regardless of the identity of the new coach. We Indiana fans are just fine with that.