University of Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez was so frustrated by the departure of so many assistant football coaches last week, he considered being the head coach next season at one point, just to halt the exodus.
"I was so emotionally zapped the other day — with some of these guys, I think they all would have stayed — that I was thinking about doing it myself, just to keep them," Alvarez said following practice on Sunday. "But ... if I did (coach) for a year, we'd be in the same situation next year."
Unfortunately for Alvarez, who stepped in to coach the Badgers for the Rose Bowl after Bret Bielema left for Arkansas, agreeing to coach next season was the only ammunition available to entice the current assistants to stay.
But even that wasn't a viable option for Alvarez, who talked about it with his wife, Cindy.
"My wife said, 'Are you sure?' " Alvarez said. " 'No. I'm not sure, let me think about this.' I did consider it. I felt so bad for a couple of those (assistants)."
Thus, Alvarez will continue his search for a replacement for Bielema, and assured fans Sunday not to panic as he already has conducted two interviews and plans to interview one more candidate.
Alvarez and deputy athletic director Sean Frazier flew to Jacksonville, Fla., on Friday to interview Jacksonville Jaguars defensive coordinator Melvin Tucker, a former UW player under Alvarez, according to a source close to the football program.
Alvarez and Frazier will leave town Monday to conduct the final interview, the same source said.
As of Sunday, five of Bielema's assistants have accepted jobs, but won't start at their new schools until after the Rose Bowl. On Sunday, it became known that linebackers coach Andy Buh will be the defensive coordinator at California. The hiring of wide receivers coach Zach Azzanni by Tennessee also was officially announced.
On Monday, that number became six when N.C. State announced the hiring of Eddie Faulkner as its tight ends and fullbacks coach, as well as special teams coordinator.
Buh declined to talk about his new job, but said he wanted to stay.
"Absolutely, you get somewhat of an attachment to a team that's going to the Rose Bowl," he said. "I'm really fond of our players here."
Alvarez talked to all of the assistant coaches about staying, all the time realizing he had nothing to keep them aboard long enough to see who UW's next head coach would be.
"In this scenario right now, it's about timing," Buh said. "Unfortunately, the timing is not right for us to stay here."
"(Alvarez) can't tie someone else's hands," Buh said of saddling a new coach with holdover assistants. "He's a coach, first, then he's an athletic director — that I know about coach Alvarez. He's been a stud through this whole thing and really a guy who is leading us all.
"His door has been open to us, both players and assistants. He's been great. That's why you haven't seen anybody waver from our mission here."
The first part of the mission is getting ready to face Stanford in the Rose Bowl. Alvarez couldn't be happier with the players in that regard.
"I think the kids have been unbelievable," Alvarez said. "They've given us good attention. I just talked to the captains; they said the guys had handled it very well."
In addition to the losses of Buh and Azzanni, defensive coordinator Chris Ash and co-defensive coordinator Charlie Partridge are going to Arkansas with Bielema, while offensive coordinator Matt Canada is going to North Carolina State to rejoin former UW assistant Dave Doeren, whom he worked with last season at Northern Illinois.
"You're offered a job at a good place, you've got to have a job," Canada said. "There are no guarantees. ... If you look out there, things are happening fast."
Partridge said telling his players he's leaving was one of the hardest things he has ever had to do.
"The character of the kids we have brought in here continues to shine," Partridge said. "That was an example of a group of young men that understand. They come out here and work every day as if nothing has happened.
"They have every excuse in the world right now to be distracted, but they continue to work."