Fifteen seasons ago, Barry Alvarez took over a Wisconsin football program that had not played a meaningful season since the Kennedy administration.
The Badgers had just wrapped up a 2-9 campaign, capping a five-year stretch that saw Wisconsin win 14 games and lose 42. The Badgers had won just seven conference games in those five seasons, and their last conference title came in 1962.
The football program was in shambles, and the athletic department was not faring much better. In his first season at the helm, Mr. Alvarez told reporters Monday, the university could not find the money to buy his team new practice jerseys.
Fifteen years later, the athletic department — now run by Mr. Alvarez — was able to finance a multimillion-dollar renovation of Camp Randall Stadium. The football program is now among the nation's leaders, and the athletic department is as vibrant and exciting as ever.
No one deserves more credit than Barry Alvarez.
In his first season at the helm, the Badgers finished 1-10. Three years later, they won the Rose Bowl. Before his first recruiting class reached graduation, Mr. Alvarez had turned a conference doormat into a Big Ten champion.
But his contribution to the university is deeper than that. Since taking over in 1990, Mr. Mr. Alvarez has not only resurrected the football program, he has helped revitalize the entire athletic department.
By establishing a winning tradition in the university's flagship athletic program, Mr. Alvarez energized fans and alumni across the state of Wisconsin. The entire department saw its funding, support and recognition soar. Each team at this university can trace its current success to Mr. Alvarez.
In 16 seasons on the sidelines, Mr. Alvarez brought the university three Big Ten titles, three Rose Bowl crowns and more than 100 victories.
On Saturday afternoon, Barry Alvarez will coach his final game at Camp Randall. Everyone lucky enough to find a ticket will be on hand to bid farewell to the most influential coach in school history. Thousands more will watch on television sets across the state and the nation.
We too would like to thank Mr. Alvarez for all he has done for this university and wish him well as he moves into the next stage of his career as full-time athletic director. We'll miss you, Barry.