“When I talked to [the media] after the game it was beyond me,” Alvarez said. “I put that game behind me as soon as I talked to the kids. We were beaten by a better football team. I felt our guys competed, but Penn State was a better football team than we were. I just sat back and looked at all we have to play for in this game, all the things that are on the line in this game coming back home. I put that game behind me.”
Despite being all but eliminated from the Big Ten Championship race, the Badgers (8–2, 5–2) have a multitude of reasons to look toward the weekend’s match up with Iowa (5–4, 3–3). In addition to being the seniors’ last home game, Saturday will be the last time Alvarez will make the trip through the tunnel under sections L and M and onto the field at historic Camp Randall Stadium.
“I really haven’t thought of it much,” Alvarez said regarding his final head coaching appearance at home. “My weekly schedule is pretty much routine. As it gets closer to Saturday, it’ll probably hit me.”
The final two conference games Alvarez has and will coach, seem to be an appropriate end to a tremendously successful career.
“My last two games as a coach here, I play in my home state, and then play the school that gave me the opportunity,” said Alvarez, referring to his childhood days in Langeloth, Pa., and his first Division I coaching job as an assistant under Hayden Fry at Iowa.
“I was very fond of the eight years I coached at the University of Iowa. I was fortunate enough to be around some unbelievable coaches. It’s been well written about the staff we had and how successful they’ve been,” Alvarez added.
After his time at Iowa, Alvarez was hired as an assistant under Lou Holtz at Notre Dame. In 1990, Alvarez was named head coach at University of Wisconsin and given the responsibility of resurrecting a football program that had compiled a 9–36 record over the past 4 years.
“My first year, we just wanted to get a different color practice jersey, and they turned me down because we didn’t have enough money,” Alvarez recalled. “We’ve changed everything, from how the offices ran, to people in the stadium and interest in the program, to the type of players that we have, to facilities.”
Alvarez has been undeniably successful in his 16 years as head football coach at Wisconsin. He has led the Badgers to 10 bowl games in the last 12 years. This comes after the school made only six postseason appearances in the program’s previous 103 years. Additionally, Alvarez is largely responsible for today’s overwhelming popularity of Wisconsin football. As evidence of what a staple Wisconsin football has become, at least 70,000 people have packed Camp Randall for 80 straight Badger home games.
Despite all of his achievements at Wisconsin, including the unexpected success of this year’s team, he hasn’t questioned his decision to pass the torch to defensive coordinator Bret Bielema.
“I try to think things out well enough before I make a decision,” Alvarez responded when asked whether he has questioned his decision to step down. “I’ve never looked back and thought ‘I shouldn’t have done this.’ I really feel comfortable and I’m very at peace with my decision. I’m just really pleased that we had this type of year.”