I won’t take credit for Barry Alvarez being hired as football coach at Wisconsin and turning the program around, after first going 1-10 in his first season after being hired by athletic director Pat Richter in 1990.
At the time that Alvarez was offered the job, I was in Miami covering the 1990 Orange Bowl between Colorado and Notre Dame. Alvarez at the time was Lou Holtz’s No. 1 assistant on the Notre Dame staff.
A group of us, including Alvarez and Holtz, were going out to dinner one night, and early in the afternoon I got a call from Holtz to come to his suite. When I got there, Alvarez was there and Holtz said, “Barry has just been offered the Wisconsin job. You’ve been around the Big Ten for a long time, what do you think of the Wisconsin job?”
Wisconsin had struggled for a long time, hiring a number of coaches and not being able to put a consistent winning program on the field. When Alvarez asked me about the position, I told him “You have to have a hole in your head to take that job.”
I called the Star Tribune office to find out the records of the previous coaches. They were 9-36 combined the previous four seasons under Jim Hilles (one year) and Don Morton, who had just been fired after three seasons.
Alvarez didn’t listen to me, of course. He made the right decision, even though he was 1-10 his first season, he then took the team to three Big Ten titles and three Rose Bowls before retiring after the 2005 season.