UW Health Sports Medicine 

The Voice: History indicates future still bright for Badgers

The_Voice_Matt_Lepay_200.jpgWhile speaking to the Madison Sports Hall of Fame Club last week, a person asked me about the six Wisconsin football assistant coaches who last winter left the program for other jobs. The person asking the question is a very loyal Badgers fan, and seemed to struggle understanding why anyone would leave here.

A big part of my answer had to do with making a business decision. Yes, Madison is a wonderful town, and the University of Wisconsin is a world-class institution. I would like to believe those are facts, not just biased observations.

However, there can come a time in anyone's life when he or she needs to assess the pros and cons of an opportunity elsewhere. By and large, those former UW assistants accepted promotions and are being paid accordingly.

Sometimes you have to make a business decision.

That seems to be what is in play with Bret Bielema, who stunned fans and appeared to do the same to his team at the news of his departure for Arkansas.

When you win a lot of games, and Bielema's teams have averaged nearly 10 victories a season, you are going to hear from other schools, or even NFL teams. Especially when you are younger. At age 42, Bielema certainly qualifies as a younger coach.

It is no secret that there is more money to be made by coaching at several SEC schools, including Arkansas. Assistant coaches in that conference can make eye-popping salaries. The SEC has won the last six BCS national titles, and no doubt the folks at Arkansas believe they can join the party.

They have the money. They have the facilities. They have a rabid fan base.

Then again, take a look at the SEC West Division. The Hogs will deal with LSU, Alabama and Texas A&M.

An extremely rugged division, but it is an opportunity Bielema must believe he could not refuse.

I get it, and I wish him the best of luck.

When a coach leaves, it is natural for fans and everyone else to get emotional. I get that, too. But I would hope in time we can all look back and say Bret Bielema's seven years as Wisconsin's head coach were pretty good. The worst season was 2008, when the team went 7-6 and was thumped in the Champs Sports Bowl.

He learned from that season, and the Badgers have been good ever since. Championship good for the last three years.

Has Bielema turned off some fans? Yes. Following a living legend has to be a challenge to begin with, but it is obvious that many folks never warmed to him. Maybe it is the Iowa background. Maybe it is the two Rose Bowl losses. Maybe it is other game management issues. Or maybe it is something else.

But the guy won. A lot. And his teams won with good players who, with rare exception, have been low maintenance and high character on and off the field.

That isn't so bad, is it?

Bielema will move on, and so will the Badgers. It should help Badger fans to know that Director of Athletics Barry Alvarez knows what he is doing.

The University of Wisconsin head football position is a good gig. Alvarez is rather well connected in this racket, and far more than any of us, he understands the importance of finding the right fit.

As difficult as it might be, maybe the best advice for fans is to sit tight and trust the process. Alvarez likes to say he has been to "Handlin' School." In other words, he has ample experience handling tough situations. That is what coaches do. That is what athletic directors do.

Alvarez is both, and that gives the Badgers a good chance of finding an excellent coach.