Thursday, December 6, 2012

My Take on the Badgers Head Coaching Vacancy

Alright, so everyone has had a few days to process the departure of Bret Bielema and give their take on whether this is good for the program and who should be the replacement. Surprisingly, many Badger fans voiced their excitement over the news that Bielema was taking his services south to take over the reigns at the University of Arkansas. Many others, however, are spending their days saddened over the loss of one of the winningest coaches in the NCAA over the past 7 years. While Bielema’s in-game coaching moves and clock management have certainly been grounds for speculation at times the past several seasons, one cannot deny his ability to bring in high caliber recruits and win football games. One can say what they want about this season’s “asterisk” around the Big Ten championship, but at the end of the day, Bielema coached the team to three in a row. Yes, he failed to win the Rose Bowl the past two seasons, but he was darn close both times – despite the Badgers being rather large underdogs in both contests.

I admit that I myself have criticized the coach’s clock management on more than one occasion, as well as much of his in-game decision making, however, averaging ten wins a season is something no one can ignore. I think the man is a phenomenal recruiter and a good football mind and the Badgers are losing a great coach.

That being said, I don’t think it is unreasonable to believe that Athletic Director Barry Alvarez can go out and get a replacement that will be just as good or better than Bielema to lead the Badgers into the future. There are several men who would be glad to have this job that I am sure are more than capable of continuing the tradition of success at Wisconsin. Many names have been thrown around but I will address the few that I have heard the most.

Paul Chryst. Chryst is obviously a popular choice to take the job, and the man that I believe sits atop Alvarez’s list of possible Bielema replacements. He coached the team’s tight ends under Alvarez in 2002 and spent six years as the Badgers’ offensive coordinator before leaving to take the head coaching job at Pitt prior to the 2012 season. He had a solid season with the Panthers, coaching them to a 6-6 record and a bid to the BBVA compass bowl. The highlight of his season may have actually come in a loss, as his Panthers took undefeated Notre Dame to overtime in South Bend just a few weeks ago. I think that Chryst is the best choice for the Badgers, assuming they can pry him away from his new home – and afford a rather large buyout of his current contract. He knows the system, he knows the recruiting area, and he has proven that he can be a successful  head coach. He grew up in Madison, played quarterback for the Badgers, and would be adored by Badger fans everywhere. (Update: 12/6/12 at 10:00am Wisconsin A.D. Barry Alvarez announced that team will not pursue Pittsburgh head coach Paul Chryst, according to Adam Rittenberg.)

Darrell Bevell. Bevell was a four year starter at quarterback under Barry Alvarez and led the Badgers to a 10-1-1 season, a Big Ten championship, and their first ever Rose Bowl victory over UCLA in 1994. He left Wisconsin as the all-time passing leader before graduating to the coaching ranks. After a few years coaching with a handful of schools in the NCAA, Bevell took a job with the Green Bay Packers and served as the quarterback’s coach during the middle years of the Brett Favre era. He has since moved on to serve as the offensive coordinator for the Minnesota Vikings and is currently coaching badger alum Russell Wilson as the offensive coordinator of the Seattle Seahawks. Bevell has gone on record in the past to say that he would love to return to Madison one day. I think he would be a good choice to succeed Bielema. He has a great deal of coaching experience at the highest level and an obvious allegiance to the Badgers and to Alvarez. My only concern would be in recruiting, as he obviously hasn’t had experience in that area in his 12 years in the NFL.

Dave Doeren. Doeren served as the defensive coordinator at Wisconsin for three seasons and spent a total of five years on Bielema’s staff. He left Madison took the head coaching job at Northern Illinois University prior to the 2011 season and led the Huskies to a BCS bowl in just his second season at the helm. He recently took the head coaching position at North Carolina State and will not be coaching NIU in that Orange Bowl game against Florida State. There is no doubt that Doeren is a proven winner. On top of his achievements at the head of the Huskie program, he has proven to be successful in Madison and someone that would most likely stick with the style of play the Badgers have used under Alvarez and Bielema – a plus for fans of the program. However, I just don’t see Alvarez prying him away from a place he has been for less than a month. One also must consider the rumors that Alvarez isn’t a big Doeren fan to begin with.

Jim Tressel. Okay, don’t hit me – I know it’s a sin to even consider this. Tressel served as the head football coach at Ohio State University for ten seasons before resigning in 2011 in the midst of an NCAA investigation into rules violations during his tenure. There is no doubt that the man is a winning football coach. He won four NCAA Division I-AA championships at Youngstown State University before taking over at Ohio State where he won six Big Ten championships and coached in three BCS National Championship games - including a victory over Miami in 2003 to cap off a perfect 14-0 season. Tressel may be just what the doctor ordered if the Badgers hope to keep pace with Ohio State and Michigan after their recent changes to Urban Meyer and Brady Hoke, respectively. He is a proven winner and an excellent recruiter. However, he would bring NCAA sanctions with him that would make the Badgers ineligible to play in a bowl game during his first season. I know this may intrigue many Badgers fans while sending others sprinting for the toilet, holding back their vomit – but it remains nothing short of intriguing and certainly worth mentioning. This all being said, I simply don’t see Alvarez even considering Tressel as an option even if he were to show interest in the job. I feel that there is way too much of a history there that Barry won’t be willing to overlook.

The next Badger football coach could be any of the four men listed above, or someone completely off the radar, but I think there is one thing we know for sure as Badger fans – Barry Alvarez will do his due diligence and he will find the right man for the job. Here’s to hoping Chryst’s statements on Tuesday night that he remains fully committed to the Pitt Panther program weren’t his last in regards to the recent Badgerland shakeup. I don’t think I’m alone in hoping Alvarez can bring him back where he belongs – inside the walls of the great Camp Randall Stadium.

Oh, and as far as Barry coaching the Rose Bowl – #LoveIt. The coaching legend will wear the headset as the touchdown legend, Montee Ball, rides off into the sunset – hopefully in a Badger win! What a way to cap a season that has seen so many ups and downs.

Until next time, Beers, Brats, and Championships.

- Joe Norton (@JoeP_Norton)

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1 comment:

  1. Man, what a shocker that was. Let's see what Barry can do in the Rose Bowl. It will be hilarious if Barry steps in for one game and wins. I think BB is going to get his a$$ handed to him in AR and then try to end up at Iowa and take over as their head coach (name slips my mind) fades...