Shocked and Stunned
MADISON - At breakfast in New York Tuesday midmorning, Wisconsin Athletic Director Barry Alvarez returned to his room to a number of phone calls, one of which was from his head coach saying he needed to speak with him. As that conversation with Bret Bielema progressed and the seventh year coach telling him more and more about Arkansas, Alvarez recognized that Bielema's dancing around the topic was about to cause an attractive job opening. "I said, ‘You're not telling me you're going to visit with the Arkansas people. You've already taken the job,'" Alvarez said of his conversation with Bielema. "The answer is yes." The situation moved quickly and, according to senior quarterback Curt Phillips, involved some deceit on a part of Bielema. According to him, Bielema first meet with Arkansas Athletic Director Jeff Long on Monday night in New York where many coaches and athletic directors were gathering for the college football hall of fame induction ceremony. By Tuesday, Bielema had struck a deal, informed Alvarez of his decision, flew to Madison to meet with the team and fly to Fayetteville to be introduced as the Razorbacks' new head coach Wednesday. Before meeting with Long and leaving for New York, however, Bielema met Monday with the team to tell them not to pay attention to his name associated with any coaching rumors. "He started it by saying, ‘His name might be brought up a couple places, but not to make anything of it,'" said Phillips. "I think guys were surprised. Definitely would not say betrayed. He has to do whatever is best for him." "Nobody had any idea of Coach B leaving, options or other teams," added senior captain Mike Taylor. Alvarez admitted he was ‘totally caught by surprise' by Bielema decision when the two met on Tuesday, especially since nobody from Arkansas had contacted him for permission; a protocol that wasn't followed that Alvarez was annoyed with. "I think it's courtesy more than anything else," said Alvarez. "Normal protocol would be - before I talk to anyone, I will call their athletic directors." He was also surprised by Bielema's explanation that he was leaving to win a national championship, a game Wisconsin was two plays away from playing in last season. "I was a little surprised by that, and he said that to me," said Alvarez. Alvarez did mention he was, ‘proud of the job that Bret did for me' and that he, ‘did a nice job taking the program, recruiting good kids,' which enters into the most important phase for Alvarez of keeping a solid recruiting class together. Wisconsin is still planning on having a bevy of official visitors in town this weekend, most of who committed to Bielema in the 2013 recruiting class. In charge of recruiting, Alvarez has instructed the assistant coaches to put an emphasis on those commitments that we have and make sure that we hold the commitments. Of the 19 committed players in the 2013 class, only four-star safety California Tyler Foreman has come out to say that he is actively looking at other schools, although more could follow. "My message is this: You committed to come to the University of Wisconsin and play for us," said Alvarez. "We've got a great university. We've got a lot to sell here. "Bret used my game plan to win. The coach that I will hire will have to understand who we are, how we go about our business. I don't look to change a whole lot in how we operate things here. And the person that I put in place will be someone that cares about kids and someone that understands Wisconsin and will be a good fit for us."