Dec. 6, 2012
Alvarez News Conference
MADISON, Wis. -- Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez met with the media Thursday afternoon to discuss a return to the sidelines on an interim basis to coach the Badgers in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1, 2013. Alvarez also spoke on the departure of former head coach Bret Bielema and the future of the Badger football program.
Archived video of the media session is available through the link above, and a complete transcript of Alvarez' remarks can be found below.
Alvarez: Thank you all for being here. I guess I'll start by saying, after being surprised by Bret (Bielema) on Tuesday about his decision to leave to take the head job at Arkansas; I was trying to formulate in my mind what I wanted to do as far as proceeding. My first concern was about the players and how to let the seniors walk out of here with a positive experience in the Rose Bowl. And the staff, I visited with the staff for a while.
That evening, Curt Phillips texted me and wanted to contact and visit with me prior to naming an interim coach. Later that evening you can imagine my phone was blowing up -- I kept getting a Green Bay call. I didn't think there was anybody in Green Bay that I needed to talk to. So I didn't take the call.
Finally, in my voice messages, I went to the Green Bay call, and it was Mike Taylor, and Mike asked me if he said he and the captains the leaders of the team have discussed the fact that they would like me to coach them in the Rose Bowl. I told him I would be honored to coach them, and I wanted them to understand, if I were going to coach, we weren't going to screw around. We were going to go out there to win.
At that point, I called my wife, and she was thrilled to get me out of the house, I think.
With that, I'd be glad to open it up for any questions. I'm very excited about coming back, and this will be a one game event. I know your question, Andy. This will be one game. I'm not looking to do it any longer than one game.
Question: Barry, with Bret's departure, do you feel in any way that you've been betrayed at all.
Alvarez: I know the business, Andy. I know the business. I know people move. I was surprised, totally caught by surprise, and surprised no one had contacted me for permission. There's some protocol in this.
But Bret has had some other offers and some other things he was interested in. So I don't feel betrayed. I'm pleased. I'm very proud of the job that Bret did for me. I thought he did a nice job taking the program, recruiting good kids. His win/loss record speaks for itself. The fact we're going to the third-straight Rose Bowl is off the charts. Its uncharted waters.
Question: When you were watching in the press box the last seven years, did you ever in the back of your mind, did you ever think, well, it would be kind of cool to get down there and coach again one more game.
Alvarez: Just in the big games, Jay. I always liked to coach big games.
When I stepped aside, I had no second regrets. Quite frankly, I'm contacted every year to see if I'm interested in going back to the field. I really enjoy the job that I have. I like the people I work with. I have an outstanding staff and a great group of coaches. I've never really second guessed that.
Question: You have some recruits stepping into town for official visits. Will you be handling those, and what is the message for athletes looking to Wisconsin as an option?
Alvarez: That's a good question. We will have our recruiting weekend. Most of the kids are coming in this weekend. Our commitments I instructed the assistant coaches to put an emphasis on those commitments that we have, make sure that we hold our commitments. I will be involved in the recruiting weekend.
My message is this. You committed to come to the University of Wisconsin and play for us. We've got a great university. We've got a lot to sell here. Bret used my game plan to win. What we sell will be you have to understand who we are, how we go about our business. I don't look to change a whole lot in how we operate things here.
And the person that I put in place will be someone that cares about kids and someone that understands Wisconsin and will be a good fit for us.
Question: Barry, would you have done this if the players didn't ask you, and what did it mean to you that they did turn to you?
Alvarez: As a matter of fact, Bret asked, Bret said, I will do whatever you want me to do. If you want me to coach the game, I'll coach the game. I said, no, Bret, you need to go to Arkansas now. I wanted to make sure that the assistant coaches they said, would you coach the game? I said, I wouldn't feel right doing that. So it did not cross my mind.
But when the players asked it's about the players. I don't want this to be about me. I want it to be about the players. I want to give them as good an opportunity and as good a chance to win the Rose Bowl as we possibly can.
This allows with the duties of a head coach at the Rose Bowl -- there are a number of duties. It can be distracting. I thought it would be best to allow the assistant coaches to do their jobs and concentrate on game planning and coaching their players and not have to worry about one of them being an interim coach.
I think this is probably the best. I felt this was the best way to go about it and give us the best opportunity give the players the best opportunity.
Question: You mentioned a one game deal for you. Where are you then in the process in finding a full time head coach, and what's your timetable or hope for the best case scenario?
Alvarez: I'm not in a big rush. I've reached out to some people. I've talked to some people. I will start interviewing face to face with some prospective coaches next week. But I will move through the process.
There's been a lot of interest shown in the position because it's a great job. It's on solid footing, new facilities, and a very good nucleus coming back. But there have been a lot of people that have contacted me with interest in it.
I always have a short list. You guys know that. I have a short list of coaches, and I've made contact with a couple of them, and I'll proceed in the interview process after this weekend. It's going to be too crazy this weekend, but I'll start next week.
Question: Barry, will all the assistants remain here through the Rose Bowl?
Alvarez: You know what, I haven't talked to all of them. As I understand it, all of them made a commitment to the players that they'll be here through the Rose Bowl. I've talked to most of them on the telephone, some I haven't. I'll catch up to them today or tomorrow.
Question: You mentioned that you were sort of surprised that no one had contacted you about permission in interviewing Bret before he left, and you mentioned something about protocol. Is the protocol in college football changing, and is it getting harsher, more aggressive, and how do you feel about that?
Alvarez: I don't know if there are any written protocols. I think it's courtesy more than anything else. Is it getting more aggressive? Absolutely. You normally now have a middleman and an agent, and now you also have your search groups that are involved. So there are a lot of different people that are involved, many times before you can even get to a coach.
Normal protocol would be before I talk to anyone, I will call their athletic directors.
Question: Barry, I believe you're the first Rose Bowl hall of famer to coach in the game. What's it going to be like for you, all the history you have there, to walk on the field, walk out of the tunnel, and lead a team?
Alvarez: That's easy. You know I guess it was four years ago. This is my fourth trip out there. Four years ago, I was inducted into the Hall of Fame. I said it since the first time 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 that I don't enjoy more.
So with our last this being our third appearance and the Hall of Fame, this is my fourth year in a row, and I love it. It doesn't get a bit old to me. I will enjoy every second of it.
Question: Barry, you mentioned Bret's decision to leave and you understand that it's a business, but when he told the players he was leaving, I guess he said part of it is I want to win a championship, and he alluded to that in his press conference yesterday. You know it's a business, but for a kid in that locker room, a player, do you understand how someone may have perceived that as we just helped you win three championships, are we not going enough for you?
Alvarez: I could see where that could be interpreted that way. I was a little surprised by that, and he said that to me. I wish him well. I wish him well. I thought we were very close to playing a national championship game a year ago. We just won three championships. I don't know.
I don't try to put words in his mouth, but I know where you're coming from.
Question: Barry, two part question. Could you go through the timeline when Bret first brought this to your attention and how that all played out. Second of all, is head coaching experience a is that a must for your next coach?
Alvarez: The timeline, as far as when he told me, Andy, I was at breakfast in New York Tuesday midmorning, and when I came back to my room, there were a number of calls, and I was going through them. Bret called and said he had to talk to me.
So he came down to my room, sat down, and proceeded to tell me that 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. I contacted made contact with a representative of a coach that I was interested in, and I had him in my room five minutes after Bret left and started my process.
The second part of the question is head coaching experience; I will start with head coaches. I'm not going to say that I absolutely would not hire an assistant coach, but I will start my process of interviewing and contacting coaches with head coaches.
Question: Barry, you said that you were going to allow the assistants to do their jobs. Will you coach the Rose Bowl like you coached the other Rose Bowls and the other games you coached at Wisconsin?
Alvarez: I'll manage the game, but I can't step in there. I will oversee both sides of the ball. I just met with both coordinators, told them I expect them to manage their end of the ball. I'll oversee practices. I'll oversee the game. I'll manage the game. I'll take that pressure off of them, but I expect them to game plan, and they've already started breaking down film.
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.
Question: Barry, at the same time, how much has the game changed since you last coached, but how excited are you that this is a matchup that's kind of an old school matchup with two teams that are very similar?
Alvarez: Two teams playing football?
Question: Yeah, exactly.
Alvarez: I'm glad we're playing it. I like two teams like this because I have great respect for how Stanford plays. Jim Harbaugh brought a toughness there that remains, and I had a chance to watch them play a few times this year. I said it several times. They have a system much like ours, and they're physical on both sides of the ball. They're disciplined. They're coached well.
So it will be a great challenge for us, but I think it's a good matchup. I think it's a great bowl matchup. The game hasn't changed.
Question: Barry, Bret alluded to it yesterday in his press conference that Wisconsin might not be in a spot to pay the same to coaches as they do in Arkansas.
Alvarez: I think our pay scale for assistant coaches is more competitive and fair. As an athletic director, I have to make decisions. I know what people are making. And every time someone has a hint they may take another job, it's not prudent to jump and throw a pile of money at them.
We all see what the salaries are. I know what the salaries are. I get charts with them. We're more than competitive. And not only that, we have a great place. It's a wonderful university. It's a great place to live. We have new facilities coming. People want to work here. The quality of life here is topnotch.
So we can get good assistants here. We have had good assistants here. We'll continue to have good assistants here, and we'll have stability here.
Question: Wonder with all you accomplished in your coaching career, you said you were deliberating the decision before the players even came to you. How much thought did you give to what this could mean or do to your legacy, good or bad?
Alvarez: I really don't think about that. I really don't. I'm excited that players asked me and want me to be a part of it. When you coach, you coach. When you coach, there's always a chance you're going to win, a chance you're going to lose. I don't worry about how one game is going to affect anything that's been accomplished in the past. I don't worry about that.
Question: Is the program, football program that you left in '05, is it better now than it is when you left it?
Alvarez: It's not worse. It's at least as good. I don't want to compare them. I like our program. We have a lot of young kids in the program. I thought it was very good when I handed it over. I handed over a 12 win team. A 10 win team that won 12. So it wasn't in bad shape when I turned it over to Bret, but it's in very good shape.
We're going to the third-straight BCS game, and that speaks volumes, and you only lose about eight or nine seniors.
Question: Very clearly, what you did worked here. What Bret did perpetuated and worked here. Have you given any thought to hiring a coach who maybe can expand on that in some way, recruiting or schematically or whatever?
Alvarez: You know what, I put a lot of thought into that. You want to hire somebody that understands the culture here, understands Big Ten football. You always want to bring someone in that brings a little something more to the table, whether it be recruiting.
I don't have any problem with our scheme. I don't perceive us as a spread them out, fast pace, no huddle, one back, five wides. I don't see us doing that because that's not the type of kid we can consistently recruit and we have to remember that.
You know what the plan is. It starts with those big palookas up front.
Question: With all that Bret had specifically numbers wise and the achievements for this program, he still got a lot of criticism even from the fan base. Do you think it would be difficult for anyone to come into this program and be compared to the success that you had?
Alvarez: It's always easier to come in two after. You know what, we have great fans, and I think anybody in the country recognizes that. I think ESPN came out and said, we have the best game day experience of all college football. In this business, you are going to be criticized.
Football is a funny game. We're the only sport where, say, both teams have 75 possessions. That's 150 snaps. You eliminate using time outs, special teams. That's 100, maybe 200 times a game that a fan could find criticism with the coach. There's no other sport like it. So you're going to be criticized. If somebody screws up on the field, it always comes back to the head coach. There isn't a coach that ever coached that isn't going to be criticized.
So that's just part of the game. Everybody has to understand that. But we have great fans. I don't ever want to be critical of our fans.
Question: But you don't think your legacy at all played a role in maybe the heightened expectations?
Alvarez: Not my legacy, but the success we had. We had a very I preached this to our alums the last few years. Don't take things for granted. It's hard to win, whether it be football or basketball.
And I think, over the last 15 years, we've been to more bowl games and more NCAA appearances than anyone in the country, but don't take that for granted. It is very hard to win, and it's a very fine line. It's a balancing act, and there are a lot of things that can topple that and blow up a program.
So don't take for granted that we just keep winning because it's hard to do. I think anybody that's competitive understands this is a good job, and they're not going to worry about my legacy or what Bret left behind or anything else. I know this is a good job, and they can come in here and continue to win. They've got new facilities coming. This is a pretty special place.
Question: Barry, is it important at all, when you're looking for your next coach to find somebody with ties to Wisconsin, whether it's a former assistant coach or a former player? Is that something that's important?
Alvarez: No, that's not that is not one of the criteria that I would use. I'd like for them to know about Wisconsin and know what we're about and how we win, and I'll be very interested to know their plan and how they're going to proceed in all areas. But to have a Wisconsin background is not necessary.
Question: On the front page of today's paper, there's a discussion of the hiring process and the relative role of the activity board. Can you speak to the importance of the different aspects of the process, different players in the hiring process.
Alvarez: We do have a process. I want to make one thing clear. When I hired Bret, I know there was a lot of criticism on campus, but when I agreed to take the athletic director's job, I asked John Wiley to put in writing that I'd name my successor. I was not some rogue that just went out and did something and hired somebody without anyone else.
I kept John Wiley abreast of what my thinking was, how I was proceeding, and who I talked to. I did what I thought I was supposed to do in following the leader of our campus, who gave me permission.
I have a great relationship with our athletic board. We have talked about this and how we will proceed. If, in fact, it's a job, a high profile job where the people that I'll be talking to would probably want this kept quiet, that's protocol. I wouldn't want to jeopardize their current job. I will keep the board in constant contact with what I'm doing, probably have one or two involved with me as I interview.
I will keep the process and procedure in order as we move through it. They'll be alerted to exactly where we are and what's going on at all times.
Question: Barry, you know how popular Paul Chryst is around here, and his name is going to be out there until proven otherwise. Is he a viable option to be the next head coach here?
Alvarez: I asked some very good friends of mine to help Paul get that job. I think Paul has already come out and said that he's committed to Pitt. I think he should be committed to Pitt. I wouldn't think it would be right for him to leave after one year. I 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.
Question: Barry, has Pat Richter given you any advice?
Alvarez: I got a call I had a message from Pat that, if I needed help, that he's available. I will lean on Pat.
Question: Barry, it was characterized over the weekend that this Rose Bowl matchup, Stanford should expect to get a better matchup, that this is an embarrassment that a five loss team is in the Rose Bowl. Your thoughts?
Alvarez: I said a couple weeks ago publicly I'm not apologizing for us to go to the Rose Bowl with five losses. I think that's a very misleading it's misleading, but we all knew the rules. As a football coach, you just want to know the rules before you go in.
What are the rules? Whoever wins the Big Ten Championship goes to the Rose Bowl. I didn't have anything to do with two teams being ineligible in our division. That allowed us to play in that championship game, and we soundly defeated the champion from the other side. So we're going to the Rose Bowl. That was all laid out.
And there are schools that you can only put two in your conference in the BCS. Southeast Conference may have four that deserve to go, but only two can go. Those are the rules laid out beforehand. Most coaches don't complain about it. It's good for talk.
I've been through that before where we were the worst team ever to be represented at the Rose Bowl. So I bring history with that, and I'm accustomed to answering those questions, and the best comeback was I know there's at least one team worse than us.
Question: Barry, you talked about the selling points of this job and how attractive it is. When candidates talk to you, what do they say about this place, and how attracted are they?
Alvarez: Most of them have coached here or seen it or heard about us. They're all impressed. They're impressed with what they see, the fan base. They all have heard great things about the city and the university. It's a world class university.
So that's why there's a lot of interest in the job, and there should be. We've shown we're consistent winners.
Question: I think you mentioned that what you told the captains in response about going there to win it. Have you addressed the whole team?
Alvarez: Not yet.
Question: What's your message to them?
Alvarez: The message is that it's business as usual. Change no one likes change -- but you can grow through change, and there's opportunity through change, and we'll take this opportunity, but they'll be coached hard. They'll be prepared well.
I want them to have an experience. I want the seniors to go out the right way, and I want the young players to understand that I will put a coach in place that they'll be pleased with.
Question: Barry, every team that you've had is different. Every team that Bret has had is different. This team seems to be unique in the sense the turmoil it's gone through, whether it was Montee (Ball) at the start of the year to the sense of abandonment right now. Could you speak to that, the uniqueness of this team and your need to kind of take the reins here.
Alvarez: I've been impressed all year with how resilient they are. To go through a coach being dismissed in a key position, go through three quarterbacks, to lose five very close games, three of them in overtime. But it was never a peak and valley team. It was never play great, lose, and that game cost you the next game. They always bounced back and responded.
I thought they got better as the year went on, particularly in the offensive line. That says a lot about your chemistry. That says a lot about your leadership and your character. So that's why I really felt it was important. If they wanted me to do this, I want them to have a great experience. We owe it to our kids.
I say this all the time. Many times we forget it's about salaries, it's about this, it's about the bowl game, it's about everything but the kids. We're all here for one reason. It's about the players that we're coaching. I want to make sure they have a good experience.
Question: Barry, you mentioned search committees before. Will you use one of those, and would there be any kind of limits on paying a buyout for a coach? Because most coaches have them in their contracts these days.
Alvarez: I won't use a search committee. Most search committees use me. I get calls from coaches. They call other athletic directors. Their athletic directors call me about coaches. I get search firms calling me. I won't pay a search firm. I think that's what they pay me for.
The buyout, obviously, you have to take a look at the contract. Bret's buyout was $1 million. That will be something we'll take a look at. We haven't really discussed how much of a buyout we'd be willing to absorb.
Question: Off the top, Barry, one of the guys on the current team, Montee Ball, is up for the Doak Walker award tonight. You know running backs. Do you think he's worthy of that award, and could you just address what he's gone through from the day he got here to where he is as a running back.
Alvarez: I think of Montee, I think of how he transformed his body from the time he got here, from coming from a third teamer at Iowa a few years ago and winning the game being ready, to being prepared in the fourth quarter to perform and win that game on the road, to see him come back, have the year that he had last year, all the issues that he had early on.
I could see how frustrated you could get early in the year when you get the ball, you've got the best back in America, and it's third and one, and you're holding your breath, or you run a power play, and there's no place to go. I could see how he got frustrated. But never once did I see him say anything negative, had negative body language. He just kept plugging along and ended up having the year we all expected.
That all went along with the offensive line getting better. I'm very proud of how he's handled himself and how he never got frustrated and continued to work. I'm pleased that he's being honored and people, other people recognize it.