When Bret Bielema left for Arkansas, there was only one coach who could rally Wisconsin's fans for the Rose Bowl: Barry Alvarez.
The scenario of Alvarez coming back for an encore at the Rose Bowl was too perfect. Alvarez has kept a close watch over Wisconsin's football program as its athletic director. Even when the Badgers hire a new coach, unless it's someone from the current staff, there's no way the new guy would know Wisconsin's personnel as well as Alvarez. And, it's very likely whoever Wisconsin hires won't have three Rose Bowl championships to their credit.
Wisconsin fans started buzzing about the possibility. The Badgers' team captains had the same thought. After the team captains asked Alvarez to come back for the Rose Bowl, Alvarez said he would and would be honored to do so, according to the Wisconsin State Journal.
Hear that? It's the sound of Wisconsin fans scrambling to find plane tickets to California for New Year's Day.
There are few coaches who are more synonymous with a program than Alvarez is at Wisconsin. Because the Badgers have had a long streak of success -- this will be their fifth Rose Bowl appearance in the past 15 seasons -- it's easy to forget there are two distinct eras in Wisconsin football history. Before Barry Alvarez, and after Barry Alvarez.
When Alvarez arrived to Wisconsin for the 1990 season, the program had never won a Rose Bowl and was perennially one of the worst teams in the Big Ten. Alvarez went 3-0 in the Rose Bowl in his 16 seasons with Wisconsin. He's in the College Football Hall of Fame. There's a bronze statue of him outside Camp Randall Stadium, which is filled for every home game now because of the success he brought. Wisconsin couldn't give away season tickets before he got there. Alvarez stepped down as coach to take over full-time duties as Wisconsin's athletic director, something that was pretty convenient when the team needed a coach for the Rose Bowl.
Bielema's departure has riled up Wisconsin's fans. He laughably wanted to coach the Rose Bowl after leaving for Arkansas, according to some reports. The revelation from Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long that Bielema had sent him a letter in September (remember, everyone knew then Arkansas would be looking for a full-time coach after the season) is definitely not going to sit well with Badgers fans, who were disappointed with a sometimes disjointed 7-5 regular season.
Alvarez knew the program he built needed him back, if just for one big game. He was never going to turn his back on that call for help.
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