With Bret Bielema stepping down Tuesday to take the head coaching job at Arkansas, a source said Alvarez has taken over the daily preparation as the team prepares for the 99th Rose Bowl Jan.1 against Stanford while he searches for a suitable replacement.
Sources indicated Alvarez, 65, didn't want Bielema being a distraction and coaching in the Rose Bowl; a game he lost 21-19 to No.3 TCU at the end of the 2010 season and 45-38 to No.6 Oregon last season. However, one source said it's unlikely that Alvarez will coach the Rose Bowl.
"I wouldn't go that far," said the source. "He's the acting head coach until he names an interim coach sometime soon."
Alvarez's 8-3 (.727) record in bowl games with the Badgers is the best in college football history (among coaches with at least 11 bowl appearances) and he left Pasadena all three trips as a winner, including a 17-9 victory in the 2000 Rose Bowl over Stanford.
Wisconsin returns to the practice field next week. Alvarez was not at the team meeting.
Bielema went 68-24 (.739 winning percentage) in his seven seasons, including winning a conference championship the last three seasons. He went 12-1 in his first season in 2006 and has finished every year with a winning record. From 2009-11, Wisconsin tallied double-digit victories each year, marking the first time in program history the school achieved that feat.
Wisconsin beat No.14 Nebraska, 70-31, Saturday at Lucas Oil Field to earn a Rose Bowl berth for the third straight year.
Bielema spoke briefly to the team during a team meeting around 6 p.m. that lasted about 15-20 minutes.
"He told us the reasons were personal and not for money," said the source, noting Bielema was making roughly $400,000 more at Arkansas in base salary. "He said him and his wife thought it would be a good move for them. Get a new start.
"One of the factors was he wanted the opportunity to bring a team up from not having won a conference title. That's something that he's always wanted to do in his career.
"Almost all the team had best wishes for him."
Co-defensive coordinator Chris Ash also spoke to the team.
"He said that we were going to go out to the Rose Bowl and play hard," said a source. "We said we were going to finish out the season."
Recently elected to the College Football Hall of Fame, Alvarez guided Wisconsin's football fortunes for 16 seasons (1990-2005). He has been at the forefront of the revival of the Badger athletic program during his entire tenure in Madison. He piloted Wisconsin to three Big Ten and Rose Bowl titles (including back-to-back in 1998-99) en route to becoming the winningest football coach in school history (118-73-4 record).
Alvarez was just the 10th coach in Big Ten history to win 100 games at one conference institution. The 1993 national coach of the year, he was a two-time (1993 and 1998) Big Ten coach of the year and a finalist for ESPN's coach of the decade (1990s) honor. He received the Victor Award's 1999 National Coach of the Year accolade and was the 2004 AFCA Region 3 Coach of the Year.
Alvarez retired from coaching at the conclusion of the 2005 season in order to concentrate solely on running the Division of Intercollegiate Athletics.
• Coached nine first-round NFL draft choices (Troy Vincent, Aaron Gibson, Ron Dayne, Chris McIntosh, Jamar Fletcher, Michael Bennett, Wendell Bryant, Lee Evans and Erasmus James) at UW.
• Coached 59 NFL draft choices at Wisconsin.
• Coached 34 All-Americans, including seven consensus first-team choices, at Wisconsin.
• Coached 62 first-team All-Big Ten selections at Wisconsin.
• Coached 119 Academic All-Big Ten selections at Wisconsin.
• Big Ten-record 10 straight seasons with a 1,000-yard rusher (1993-2002).
• Four Big Ten Defensive Players of the Year.
• Two Big Ten MVPs.
• Two Big Ten Offensive Players of the Year.
• Three Big Ten Freshmen of the Year.
• Three Big Ten and Rose Bowl championship teams (the only other Big Ten coach with at least three Rose Bowl wins was Ohio State's Woody Hayes).
• Eleven bowl qualifiers.
• Coached or played in 22 bowl games (at Wisconsin, Notre Dame, Iowa and Nebraska).