Praise to thee, Bar-ry Al-var-ez!
And boy does he deserve it! On Thursday, the former Wisconsin head football coach—the only Big Ten head man to lead his school to back-to-back Rose Bowl wins—and current UW Athletics Director, was announced as a member of the College Football Hall of Fame’s 2010 class.
Alvarez joins former mentors (and bosses) Hayden Fry and Lou Holtz, as well as his college coach at Nebraska, Bob Devaney, in the College Hall, located in South Bend, Indiana.
With his selection, Alvarez becomes the first Badger-affiliated choice since legendary UW tight end—and Alvarez’ predecessor as AD—Pat Richter, was enshrined in 1996. He will be the ninth UW inductee overall.
The native Pennsylvanian played college ball as a linebacker for Nebraska from 1966 to 1968, before transitioning to high school coaching, first in Nebraska and later in Iowa.
From there, like his coaching successor Bret Bielema, Alvarez got his first college coaching opportunity at the University of Iowa, where he would coach linebackers from 1979 to 1986.
Following his stint in Iowa City, Alvarez headed eastward to South Bend, where he coached the Fighting Irish linebackers for one season, before being promoted to defensive coordinator, a role he would hold for two seasons—1988 and 1989.
However, it was in Madison that the Alvarez legend was built.
Taking the reins from Don Morton, who in three seasons had posted a 6-27 mark, Alvarez took his lumps early, finishing 1-10 in his first year at the helm, followed by back-to-back 5-6 campaigns.
In 1993, the story of Alvarez and the Wisconsin football program took a sharp right turn toward prominence.
That year, led by quarterback Darrell Bevell (yes, that Darrell Bevell, Brett Favre’s BFF) and running back Brent Moss, the 1993 squad finished 10-1-1, and unimaginably upended UCLA in the Rose Bowl, the first ever Rose Bowl win for the woebegone program.
The rest is history.
Alvarez revamped Wisconsin’s recruiting, facilities and play on the field, reaching 10 bowl games in the next 12 years, including the aforementioned back-to-back Rose Bowl wins in 1999 and 2000 (thanks Ron Dayne!).
In 16 years guiding the cardinal-and-white, Alvarez finished with a 118-73-4 overall mark, good for a winning percentage in excess of .600, and a bowl game winning percentage of .727, the best of all-time.
Yet it isn’t so much the specifics of Alvarez’ time roaming the sidelines of Camp Randall that matter most, but the overall makeover he was able to effect.
With a good sense of humor countered by a stern, unrelenting work ethic, Alvarez was the protagonist of one of the truly remarkable program turnarounds in all of college sports.
And for that, the city of Madison and the whole Badger state will remain forever indebted.
In the College Hall class of 2010, Alvarez is joined by Gene Stallings, former head coach at Texas A&M and Alabama, and 12 players including the late Pat Tillman (defensive back, Arizona State), Desmond Howard (receiver/returner, Michigan), Mark Herrman, (quarterback, Purdue), Dennis Byrd (defensive lineman, N.C. State), Ronnie Caveness (linebacker, Arkansas), Ray Childress (defensive lineman, Texas A&M), Randy Cross (offensive lineman, UCLA), Sam Cunningham (running back, USC), Clarkston Hines (wide receiver, Duke), Chet Moeller (defensive back, Navy), Jerry Stovall (running back, LSU), and Alfred Williams (linebacker, Colorado).
All the members will be honored December 7 in New York, and all are worthy picks.
Perhaps none, though, quite as worthy as the savior of Wisconsin football.
U-rah-rah, congrats to Bar-ry!