Alvarez dons a second cap

Fourteen months after Pat Richter announced he was stepping down as athletic director, Wisconsin's football coach accedes to dual role

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When Barry Alvarez was interviewing to become Wisconsin's head football coach 14 years ago, he told athletic director Pat Richter he wanted to someday become an administrator.


"It has always been in the back of my mind," Alvarez said Thursday afternoon, addressing the media from his office in Camp Randall Stadium, for the first time as Wisconsin's new athletic director.


That desire was nearly 25 years in the making. While Alvarez was playing football at Nebraska, his coach, Bob Devaney, assumed the athletic director mantel.


"I idolized my coach and really a lot of the goals that I have set for myself in this profession were patterned after him," Alvarez said. "Being a Division I coach and…putting my stamp on a program. Not being a guy that jumped around to a lot of different jobs."


It was 14 months ago that Richter announced he would step down and hand the keys to the athletic department to Alvarez. So when the April 1 transition finally came it was almost anticlimactic. "I don't feel a bit different," Alvarez said.


Alvarez, after all, had been involved at the highest levels of the administration since the shift began. Now, however, Alvarez said, "the buck stops here."


"When Pat was still the director and there was a Big Ten meeting, I didn't have to worry about it," he said. "I knew Pat could take care of it…I could go about my normal football schedule.


"The day-to-day things won't change as much but there is not someone here to use as a cushion."


The athletic department that Richter adopted in 1989 was in shambles, a poorly run financial ruin to be kind. Alvarez takes over a mature program that has seen its share of success the past 14 years, including three national championships, 49 Big Ten team titles and the onset of financial health.


The basic goals now, Alvarez said, are to continue to build the 23 sports programs on campus, improve their facilities, capitalize on revenue sources, keep the budget in order and maintain progress that has been made regarding gender-equity.


"The things we can't overlook are we're here for our student-athletes," Alvarez said. "Sometimes everything else gets in the way. It's still about providing services and providing a positive atmosphere and giving our student-athletes a chance to be successful and competitive…And to give them every opportunity to walk out of here with a world-class degree."


All of this, despite being concurrently four decades, 14 years and 14 months in the making, is still in its experimental stages. Alvarez could take off either hat at any time or he could maintain each role for years.


"I think I'll have a much better idea after doing both for a year," Alvarez said. "The chancellor and I have an agreement that at the end of next year we will sit down and talk about it and see how I feel about a dual role and how he feels about it. If we both feel comfortable with it then we will continue with it."


Alvarez said he and UW Chancellor John Wiley did not set even a general date for their meeting, nor does he have a timetable in mind for how long he could continue in either or both roles.


"I don't have any preconceived notions," Alvarez said. "I enjoy football…and I've really enjoyed getting involved with the administration this past year."


For the record, Devaney held each role for six seasons and won two national titles in that span, then spent 20 additional years as solely the Nebraska athletic director.

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