ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) -- Barry Alvarez is preparing for another bowl
game, celebrating his birthday and getting ready to leave
Wisconsin's sidelines on his own terms.
The man who took a one-time Big Ten Conference joke to three
Rose Bowl wins and three league titles leads the 21st-ranked
Badgers into his coaching finale Monday against No. 7 Auburn in the
Capital One Bowl.
Peppered with questions about the end of his successful 16-year
run all season, Alvarez has avoided sugary sentiment and misty-eyed
It doesn't mean he's not savoring the experience.
"I love bowl games. I really do," said Alvarez, who turned 59
on Friday. "I like it more than the kids do. I grew up a poor kid
in western Pennsylvania, and I went to Nebraska because I saw them
play in the Orange Bowl and I wanted to play in a bowl game. I
cherish the memories of that."
Maybe Alvarez will get emotional in the locker room -- after all,
he's had a couple of tear-choked moments with his team since
announcing in July that he was handing over the reins to defensive
coordinator Bret Bielema. But a win one for Barry speech? Don't
hold your breath.
"I haven't brought that up all year," said Alvarez, who will
remain the school's athletic director. "I haven't played that
He doesn't really need to. The Badgers (9-3) had gone 9-36 in
the four seasons before he arrived in 1990, and were typically
playing in a half-empty home stadium.
Then came Alvarez, a former assistant at Notre Dame and Iowa who
had made the coaching rounds at several high schools.
The Badgers enter his final game as 10½-point underdogs to the
Tigers (9-2), who finished the regular season as one of the
nation's hottest teams and have won three consecutive bowl games.
Auburn closed the season with wins over Georgia and Alabama, making
a late bid for a BCS bowl berth.
The game features two of the top offenses in the Big Ten and
Southeastern Conference, led by tailbacks Brian Calhoun of
Wisconsin and Kenny Irons of Auburn, against two defenses that
couldn't quite reproduce their stinginess of 2004.
But, really, those are mere sidebars to the departure of
Alvarez, even though he might not want it that way.
"He never once has made any emphasis on his last home game or
his last game," Bielema said. "It's just been status quo."
Status quo is pretty good at Wisconsin these days. Alvarez ended
a 31-year Rose Bowl drought for the Badgers in 1994 and made it
back in 1999 and 2000, the only Big Ten coach to win the game in
consecutive seasons. Such milestones would have been mere fantasy
in Madison before his arrival.
After playing and working as a graduate assistant under Bob
Devaney at Nebraska -- whom Alvarez "really idolized" -- he had
formed a vision of what he wanted to accomplish as a head coach.
"I wanted to go to a place that had been down, build it up,
sustain it and leave it and have people someday say, 'Hey Alvarez
built that,' just like Devaney did," he said.
Receiver Jonathan Orr and his teammates weren't old enough to
see much of the old Wisconsin, but they've heard the dismal
"From my understanding, I don't even think the stadium was
half-filled," Orr said. "He's just changed the face of the
program, and he's changed the community too. A lot of that has to
do with Coach Alvarez."
The Badgers have taken their cue from the coach leading up to
this game. Sure, they'd like to give Alvarez a victorious send-off,
but they also want to reach 10 wins for the fourth time in his
"What's important is it is a chance for us to win the 10th game
and that really puts us in the upper class of teams across the
country," said Calhoun, who has scored a school-record 23
touchdowns. "I think it's really important to win this game and
send him out on a good note."
Known mostly for defense and powerful running attacks featuring
such backs as Heisman Trophy winner Ron Dayne, Alvarez had to tweak
that formula some this season with heavy defensive losses to
graduation and injuries.
No problem. Behind Calhoun, quarterback John Stocco and
receivers Brandon Williams and Orr, the Badgers scored a
school-record 422 points and reached 40 six times.
Alvarez doesn't plan to tweak his approach to this game, finale
or not. That means getting his players fired up to win for
themselves, not him.
"They're all competitors. You play because you want to win, you
want to compete," Alvarez said. "You're not at this level unless
you're a competitor. And we're playing an outstanding team.
"You want to win, you want to compete well. You shouldn't have
to have any other motivational factors."