University of Wisconsin senior linebacker Mike Taylor grew up in Ashwaubenon and, like many young football players in the state, he dreamed of playing for a coach such as Barry Alvarez.

But in Taylor’s wildest imagination, he couldn’t come up with a scenario like the one that will play out in his final game with the Badgers.

Taylor led an appeal from the team’s leaders that persuaded Alvarez, who is UW’s athletic director, to return to the sidelines for one game and coach the Badgers against Stanford in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1 in Pasadena, Calif.

Alvarez’s decision, announced Thursday, instantly energized players and fans who had been through a turbulent week after coach Bret Bielema abruptly left Tuesday to become the coach at Arkansas.

“I think it’s the best thing that could happen,” Taylor said at a news conference. “(Alvarez) is familiar, obviously, with what we do. He’s the one that built this program. That’s the reason why kids like me come here, to play for a coach like that.”

Alvarez brings the instant credibility of someone enshrined in the Rose Bowl and College Football halls of fame. He is the winningest coach in UW football history (118-73-4, .615 in 16 seasons) and has gone 3-0 in Rose Bowls.

The Badgers, who suffered close losses in the past two Rose Bowls under Bielema, could have fractured over the loss of their coach. Instead, the players sounded more united than ever behind Alvarez.

“If anything, I think it gives us a better chance to win the Rose Bowl,” senior quarterback Curt Phillips said of having Alvarez on the sideline. “He knows the formula for success there.

“It would have been business as usual for us if this hadn’t happened. It gives guys a chance to rally around him and have something even extra to play for.”

Alvarez said he would not have been interested in coaching the game if the players had not asked.

After Bielema delivered the shocking news he was leaving, he offered to coach in the game. Alvarez immediately shot that down and told Bielema he needed to go to Arkansas.

Then the UW assistants — who are expected to stay through the game — made an appeal for Alvarez to coach.

“I said, ‘I wouldn’t feel right doing that,’” Alvarez said. “So it did not cross my mind (again).

“But when the players asked — it’s about the players. I don’t want this to be about me. ... I want to give them as good an opportunity and as good a chance to win the Rose Bowl as we possibly can.”

Alvarez met with offensive coordinator Matt Canada and defensive coordinator Chris Ash and told them they would be responsible for game plans on their sides of the ball.

“I’ll oversee practices,” Alvarez said. “I’ll oversee the game. I’ll manage the game. I’ll take that pressure off of them.”

None of the players saw Bielema’s departure coming — especially when he assured them during a team meeting Monday afternoon things would be fine. Bielema then flew to New York City, where he accepted his new job.

“We had a team meeting ... (Bielema) kind of ended it by saying, ‘Some things may be brought up with a couple places,’ but not to make anything of it,” Phillips said.

The next day the players gathered for a somber meeting with Bielema, who told them he was leaving.

“When he walked in, it got super silent,” Taylor said. “He started to talk, he got emotional, it was just super awkward.”

The team leaders then met to discuss how to move forward. Taylor said he never thought about asking Alvarez to coach but when someone brought it up, it won quick and unanimous approval.

Phillips sent Alvarez a text, requesting a meeting. Taylor also called two times, but got no response.

“I kept getting a Green Bay call,” Alvarez said. “I didn’t think there was anybody in Green Bay that I needed to talk to. So I didn’t take the call.”

Alvarez eventually listened to his messages and was moved by a heartfelt appeal from a state product.

“I was nervous calling him,” Taylor said. “Never really talked to him like that before, one-on-one on the phone. I just felt that’s the best thing to do. Just spoke from the heart, let him know I thought he’d be the best person to coach us in the Rose Bowl.”

Said Alvarez: “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.”

You might also like

(10) comments

BobsYourUncle
BobsYourUncle

Barry "moved by the heartfelt appeal"! Who's he kidding? It's the money, baby! Here is his quote from the Milwaukee paper; "“I’m not doing it for free,” Alvarez said after a UW athletic board meeting Friday. “I’m getting paid 1/12 of the coach’s salary, which is fair.” As if he hasn't made enough money from the UW, boosters and fans......As always, it's all about the money!!

http://www.jsonline.com/blogs/sports/182611791.html

NORTHBADGER
NORTHBADGER

Would not doubt that Beliema made his resignation Jan 1, 2013 and both WEAC and AFSME will make sure he also gets paid $225,000 and takes Jan 1, as excused absense.!
One has to remember it's all for the kids.

ABDGRFN
ABDGRFN

We're going out there to win!!!!!!


Why else would we go ????


Do your thing Barry

On Wisconsin.

Bigtenwi
Bigtenwi

ok... how do you run up the score when the other team can't stop you... we ran the ball every down almost. remember 10 total passes. I am sorry you don't just kneel down every time you have the ball..

hcliff1
hcliff1

Bad Karma will come Bert's way for sure. He intentionally ran up the Nebraska score putting starters in jeopardy of getting hurt for a upcoming game he knew he would not be coaching! Even Richter was taken back by this jerk move. I can't wait till he sucks up all the Arkansas beer and gets what we know he deserves...........

Observer5
Observer5

Ark did not ask for permission to approach BB and BB didn't talk to Barry before taking the job yet
Barry won't talk to Chryst about coming back because it would be inappropriate. At least one side has some ethics in this situation. Reading this makes me proud to be a Badger, you can never go wrong doing things ethically and honestly. Sounds like typical SEC mode of operation and I think it will generate bad karma for BB and Ark.

Jaybird66
Jaybird66

Never was a huge Bielema fan...a product of his assistants and making bad decisions that his assistants got him out of...He is smart, however, to get out and go for the money now, but will only last the term of his contract
In other news...Barry Alvarez certainly doesn't lack confidence...Search committees go to him for coaches and the only reason Chryst is at Pitt is because of him. Maybe a touch self-absorbed?

Gianni
Gianni

An Arkansas media outlet reported that Bielema wrote to the Arkansas AD in September to compliment him on how he handled the Petrino debacle. The seeds were sown months ago. BB had his sights set on the Razorbacks well before the end of this season.

Hoartio
Hoartio

I don't know about the rest of you but Bielemas departure confirms my intent to never buy a chevy product!

Devastation608
Devastation608

Go big red!

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it clean. Exchange ideas and opinions on posted articles. Don't promote products or services, impersonate other site users, register multiple accounts, threaten or harass others, post vulgar, abusive, obscene or sexually oriented language. Don't post content that defames or degrades anyone. Don't repost copyrighted material; link to it. In other words, stick to the topic and play nice. Report abuses by clicking the button. Users who break the rules will be banned from commenting. We no longer issue warnings. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.