Sunday, September 1, 2013

Earn That Statue

There's a statue of Barry Alvarez outside Camp Randall Stadium. This strikes some people as premature, or gauche, or worse, for a couple of reasons: (1) Barry Alvarez is still alive, and we usually wait until people are dead to honor them in bronze; and (2) Barry Alvarez is not just still alive, but still working at the University of Wisconsin as its athletics director.

Still, most Badgers fans are fine with the statue because it cannot be denied that Barry Alvarez is a living legend. What he did as the football coach at Wisconsin is a miracle. He take a good-for-nothing, moribund non-program and turn it into a consistent winner that went to three Rose Bowls (and won them) in eight years. Then he transitioned into a role as the tsar—er, athletics director—and groomed his own successor (Bret Bielema). This is usually where the story takes a turn for the worse. As rare as it is for someone to create a powerhouse from scratch, it's even rarer for the powerhouse to survive that person's retirement. But Barry Alvarez did it. He built Wisconsin football as its coach, and as athletics director he left it in Bret Bielema's remarkably competent hands. Three more Rose Bowls ensued.

We know what happened next. Bret Bielema took the money and ran. Barry Alvarez hired Gary Anderson.

This is Barry's final test. If Gary Anderson succeeds at Wisconsin—and by "success" I mean that he wins at least one conference championship in his tenure—then Barry Alvarez will have done the unthinkable: He will have turned Wisconsin into a dynasty.

And if that happens, Barry Alvarez will, beyond any doubt, have earned that statue.

--Bart Torvik

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