Barry Alvarez has a new contract that will keep him as University of Wisconsin athletic director through 2018. It’s a role he plans to fulfill into his 70s.
“I’ll keep going as long as I keep enjoying it and as long as they want me here,” he said this week.
Alvarez, who turned 66 in December, had an annual performance review with outgoing chancellor David Ward last month and had a year added to his existing deal, keeping it at five years.
Alvarez’s contract calls for a raise of $25,000, which will put his compensation package for 2013-14 at $1.050 million and keep him among the highest-paid college athletic directors in the nation. Of that salary, $500,000 comes from UW Athletics and the rest from gift funds at the UW Foundation.
“I enjoy what I do. I like the people I work with. I like the job,” Alvarez said.
A Hall of Fame football coach of the Badgers from 1990 to 2005, Alvarez will be entering his 10th year as athletic director in 2013-14. The first two were spent in the dual role of coach and AD.
For some perspective, Alvarez will soon be working as AD for his fourth chancellor. The newly hired Rebecca Blank follows Ward, Biddy Martin and John Wiley.
When Alvarez originally agreed to the terms of his contract in 2011, he was one of three athletic directors at NCAA Division I schools to be paid $1 million or more. Now there are nine, according to figures recently compiled by USA Today.
According to the newspaper, David Williams of Vanderbilt is the highest-paid athletic director in the NCAA with a package valued at $3.239 million. A tenured law professor, his duties also include vice chancellor for university affairs.
Alvarez is one of three ADs in the Big Ten Conference known to have seven-figure compensation packages in 2012-13. The others are Shawn Eichorst at Nebraska ($1.123 million) and Gene Smith at Ohio State ($1.099 million).
Eichorst, who grew up in Lone Rock and graduated from UW-Whitewater, served as Alvarez’s deputy athletic director from 2009 to 2011.
Darrell Bazzell, the UW vice chancellor for finance and administration, participated in Alvarez’s latest performance review.
“He takes his job very seriously,” Bazzell said. “We think he hires quality people. I would refer to it as a top-notch department. I think they do an excellent job.”
UW Athletics sponsors 23 sports — 12 for women, 11 for men — and recently approved $133 million in spending authority for 2013-14.
Bazzell was asked to define the biggest challenge facing Alvarez and his department.
“From where I sit, the challenge always is striking a proper balance between remembering that we’re an institution of higher education where academics is front and center, but at the same time maintaining competitive athletic programs,” Bazzell said.
“That’s a real challenge in this day and age where you see ever-increasing amounts of money being devoted to athletics — whether it’s in infrastructure or whether it’s in compensation — and for us to remain competitive we have to figure out where that line is for us.”
Alvarez has an iconic legacy as football coach — resurrecting a national doormat into a program that won three Big Ten titles and three Rose Bowls — but what about one as an administrator?
“I get tired of saying we’re not a sexy school,” he said. “I’d like for us to get our due respect out there, especially to the recruits so you can attract the national recruit.”
Alvarez noted how the UW football team has played in three straight Bowl Championship Series games and how the men’s basketball team has qualified for the NCAA tournament every year since 1999.
“Our consistency is pretty good,” he said. “I don’t know if most people recognize it.”
Alvarez will continue to push that agenda in the coming years.
“I haven’t thought about retirement,” he said.