I was hoping for more drama at University of Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez's press conference Thursday morning. With the news that he had accepted a request from some senior football players to coach the Badgers in the Rose Bowl already broken on Wednesday evening, I was looking for even more of a return to the golden era of Wisconsin football.
I pictured Alvarez announcing that not only will he coach the team, he's getting the band back together. You know, all the old assistants: Brad Childress, John Palermo, Jim Hueber, Kevin Cosgrove. How great would it be for Alvarez to reconvene that crew for one last rodeo, a la Stallone, Schwarzenegger, Van Damme and Lundgren in The Expendables.
As it actually played out, Alvarez provided quite a bit of subject matter for sports radio and Badger fan message boards to chew over the rest of this week and well into next. After explaining how honored he was to hear from senior captains Curt Phillips and Mike Taylor asking him to lead the team in Pasadena on New Year's Day, he attempted to erase any doubt about how much of a role he'll play in the Rose Bowl preparations.
"I wanted them to understand if I was going to coach them, we weren't going to screw around," Alvarez said. "We were going out there to win."
The sound of reporters assembled in the Kohl Center media room tweeting that quote into their smartphones was audible.
Indeed, the impressive assembly of media (I counted at least 14 video cameras) and UW coaches made it clear how much star power Alvarez still exudes seven seasons after he coached his last game. Women's basketball coach Bobby Kelsey and softball coach Yvette Healy were seated in the first couple rows, and a few of the men's basketball assistants milled around in back. Nobody wanted to miss this show.
And Alvarez didn't disappoint. He spoke with his trademark quiet confidence, attempting to reassure fans and players that he has not just the Rose Bowl preparations, but the coaching search well under control. At the same time, he repeated his surprise at Bielema's departure and, in particular, how it was handled by Arkansas administrators.
"I was surprised no one had contacted me for permission," he said. "There's some protocol in this."
In seeking a new hire, he plans to do it differently, seeking permission from athletic directors before speaking to coaches. And he was pretty clear about how he views search committees.
"I won't use a search committee," Alvarez said. "Most search committees use me."
A few other statements that stuck out from the press conference.
- In response to a question about whether former UW offensive coordinator and current Pitt head coach Paul Chryst might be a viable option to take over: "I asked some very good friends of mine to help Paul get that job... I think he should be committed to Pitt. I wouldn't think it would be right for him to leave after one year, wouldn't feel right, and I don't think it would be appropriate for me to hire him back after I asked someone to do me a favor and help him get that job. So Paul's going to stay at Pitt."
- In response to a question about whether he ever thinks about returning to coaching: "Just in the big games. I always liked coaching in big games... Quite frankly, I'm contacted every year to see if I'm interested in going back to the field."
- In response to a question wondering what it will be like to walk out of the tunnel at the Rose Bowl again: "Four years ago, I was inducted into the (Rose Bowl) Hall of Fame. I said it since I coached that game in '81 when I was an assistant at Iowa -- there's no venue prettier in all of sports than the Rose Bowl. I feel it's a special place. I love the atmosphere, I love the week leading up to it. There isn't anything I enjoy more... It doesn't get a bit old to me. I will enjoy every second of it."
- In response to a question about the timeline of what happened with Bielema telling him about the Arkansas job in New York on Monday: "As we went through the conversation, I said, 'you're not telling me you're going to visit with the Arkansas people, you've already taken the job.' And the answer was yes. He left and I contacted a representative of a coach I was interested in and I had him in my room five minutes after Bret left."
- In response to a question about his role as coach: "I'll oversee practices. I'll oversee the game. I'll manage the game... I'll go up and start taking a look at practice and the practice schedules and what we have and implement the things that I believe in. I think we had a pretty good routine that we did and I want to make sure that we continue to do that because I think we could have an advantage."
Earlier this week, Wisconsin's opponent in the Rose Bowl, Stanford, announced that it had sold out of its allotment of tickets. In case there was any question about whether the UW athletic department is planning to exploit Thursday's announcement to move more of its allotment, here's what the home page of uwbadgers.com looked like before and after the Alvarez press conference.