When the news of Barry Alvarez coaching the Rose Bowl came down from ESPN a week ago, there were plenty of skeptics. Was it just a money grab? Was it a shot to steal a Rose Bowl win for his ego? Why didn't they just go interim like every other school that lost its coach?
Ultimately, for the Rose Bowl and their future, the Badgers and Alvarez made the smart and more importantly, the right choice for their program.
First and foremost, letting Bret Bielema stick around, after he just up and left you for Arkansas, would have been asinine. Perhaps even toxic. This is not Larry Fedora taking the step up UNC job from Southern Miss and then sticking it out with his first class of kids. This is a lateral move where there is plenty of expected disdain for the move by Bielema.
Smart move to say, "No thank you" to that setup.
My colleague, Adam Jacobi, over at the Big Ten Blog, makes some great points on the prestige of the Wisconsin job in comparison to the other remaining openings. If there's a coach out there to be had for the Badgers, they will not be outbid by the likes of Texas Tech, San Jose State or Temple. Win or lose in the Rose Bowl, Wisconsin is going to get the guy that they want.
Those are a couple bullets in the gun of patience. However, the big shot that makes this move by Alvarez the right one is the absolute avoidance of the interim. Whether they are there for a long period of time, like Everett Withers or John L. Smith, or just a short time for the bowl trip, interim coaches are never a good situation.
To be frank, they are terrible.
No, the coaches are not terrible. The situation is what is terrible.
By inserting himself into the situation, Alvarez and the Badgers have circumvented the tagging of an assistant as the interim. That means they have stepped out of the Larry Coker and Bill Stewart realm of possibilities. There will be no player favorite promotion here that ends up setting the program back from an achievement standpoint.
For a program like Wisconsin, one that likes to hire from within, avoiding that pratfall is a major step in the hiring process. Now, Alvarez and the advising parties can sit down and put together a push for the candidates that they truly want—not the candidates that tugged at heart strings by winning a Rose Bowl over the Stanford Cardinal.
Sure, you could fall for the whole "but you need to get a coach in to help with recruiting" line that some folks will try to sell you. Don't buy it. The dead period starts December 17 and runs through January 3, which the NCAA makes very clear. Thus, a coach hired Monday or later would earn no leg up in recruiting.
Barry Alvarez is making yet another strong move for the Wisconsin football program. The man built the program into a regional power. He helped them make a smooth transition into the next coach. Now, with plenty of guys that have Wisconsin ties eyeing the job, he is making a smart play to hire the next leader of the program.