Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Bret Bielema Bolts Badgers

A stunner, to say the least. Bret Bielema, who just led the Wisconsin Badgers to their third consecutive Big Ten championship and third straight trip to Pasadena, leaves the program to go to Arkansas.

What's it all mean? Who knows, but I have a few guesses. First, Bielema has always been a controversial figure in Madison. He's an abrasive guy and while he was a hell of a recruiter, his game day coaching was often a source of heartburn in Madison. Second, he's going to get a lot of money at Arkansas, where they are desperate to find a coach who can clean up the mess left behind by Bobby Petrino and John L. Smith, two of the bigger train wrecks in recent NCAA history. Finally, I've often thought that Bielema thought he needed to get out from underneath the shadow of Barry Alvarez, the architect of the Badger program. Even though Bielema's record of 68-24 was pretty stellar, he was still viewed in some quarters as the beneficiary of something that had been built by someone else. At Arkansas, he'll be able to establish his own legacy.

So who will the Badgers hire? A few possibilities:

Offensive guru
Paul Chryst. Chryst was on Bielema's staff until last year, when he became the head coach at Pitt. Chryst has denied that he'd be interested in the Badgers, but I suspect he'd listen if Alvarez came calling. Chryst is an offensive minded coach and a brilliant playcaller. He'd have broad support in Madison. I would make Chryst the early favorite.

Rose Bowl Hero
Darrell Bevell. Bevell was Alvarez's first quarterback at Wisconsin and he led the Badgers to the 1994 Rose Bowl, a 21-16 victory over UCLA. Bevell has been a coach in the NFL for a long time now, with the Packers, the Vikings and the Seattle Seahawks. He's a smart guy and well loved in Madison. He'd certainly be interested in the job. He did a great job working with Brett Favre during his years in Green Bay, which proves he can deal with all manner of personalities. He also worked with Brad Childress in Minnesota and lived to tell the tale.

The It Girl
Butch Jones. The coach of the Cincinnati Bearcats is the hottest prospect on the market. He apparently turned down the Purdue job earlier this week and has interviewed for the job at Colorado. At this point, the UW job is a lot more appealing than the Purdue job, although that hasn't always been the case, while Colorado is a longtime power that has fallen on very hard times since they left the Big XII for the Pac-12. Perhaps Jones knew something was up. He's well regarded as a tactician and a recruiter and has the added benefit of being a guy who might be able to take a few more top recruits away from Ohio State. No connection to UW, though.

This Gruden guy, he's something
Jon Gruden. The wild card. He's turned down other jobs and may enjoy his gig as the analyst for Monday Night Football too much to return to coaching, but I think he'd listen to Alvarez showed interest. Gruden won a Super Bowl in Tampa, albeit with Tony Dungy's players. He's obviously a high-profile guy with a history in Wisconsin, since he began his career on Mike Holmgren's staff in Green Bay in the 1990s. He's not been a college coach and it's not clear if he could recruit, but I'm guessing he'd have no trouble getting inside the houses of most high school football players. I don't think this will happen, but you never know.

We'll have more to say about this in the coming days, but those are my guesses. If you have any guesses, put them in the comment section.


CousinDan 54915 said...

There is this guy named Barry Alvarez? Wonder if he would be interested?

Mr. D said...

Dan, in the short term I think Barry could come back down from the AD's office, but I'm not sure he'd want to do the job that much longer. Wouldn't rule that out, though.

Chuckwagon Boy said...

And you were right about Alvarez, Mr. D!

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