Once again, Barry Alvarez’ name has come up in the discussion of a vacant head coaching position. This time the job is Notre Dame, where Alvarez was an assistant for three years under Lou Holtz, including the Irish team that won the 1988 national championship.
Citing anonymous NFL and college sources close to Alvarez, WNDU-TV, an NBC-affiliate in South Bend, ran a report on its Web site Monday evening that stated that Alvarez, “would love to talk with Notre Dame,” and “would take the Notre Dame job if it were offered.” Other media outlets have also dropped Alvarez’ name regarding the Notre Dame position.
Alvarez, in his 15th season as Wisconsin’s head football coach and first year as athletic director, could not be reached for comment Monday. Two UW officials declined comment. A source close to the Wisconsin football program, however, said there was no way Alvarez would leave Wisconsin.
“I personally think, I could be totally wrong, but I just think that Notre Dame right now is just trying to keep hopes alive,” the source said, requesting anonymity. “I’m sure they’re getting hounded by boosters and alums and they are throwing out names there to kind of stave off the wolves.”
Madison NBC affiliate WMTV wrote on its Web site Monday night: “A source close to the UW football program tells NBC 15, the story linking Alvarez to the Fighting Irish is not very credible.”
Alvarez has been the subject of high-profile rumors many times before. The possibility that seemed to make the most sense for Alvarez was an offer to coach the Miami Hurricanes nearly four years ago. Just days after Butch Davis left Miami, though, Alvarez formally declined that offer.
“No. 1, I’ve put an awful lot of work into this program,” Alvarez said then, according to the Feb. 3, 2001 edition of the Capital Times. “And it’s my program. And I think I’ve got my stamp on it. And when you put that much time and effort into a program, it’s difficult to turn it over to someone else.”
Alvarez’ name has also been linked to past openings with the Green Bay Packers, Philadelphia Eagles and at USC, among others. The Hurricane opportunity, though, would have reunited Alvarez with University of Miami president Donna Shalala, who was UW’s chancellor when Alvarez first arrived at Wisconsin. After building the Badgers from cellar-dweller into a three-time Rose Bowl champion, the Miami job would have afforded him a golden opportunity to win a national championship as a head coach, which the Hurricanes ended up doing that year.
The source Badger Nation reached cited the Miami example as a reason to distrust reports of Alvarez’ eminent departure. At that time Alvarez publicly said he would finish his career at UW.
“Alvarez and Wisconsin are synonymous,” the source said. “He’s a pretty smart guy and he understands that by staying at Wisconsin he becomes, his name is almost like a Joe Paterno. You become synonymous with the program and there is something to be said for that.”
Alvarez does have a soft spot for Notre Dame, the source said, but it is a soft spot tempered by first-hand knowledge of the tribulations involved in coaching the Fighting Irish.
“He knows what it’s all about there,” the source said. “He said, ‘it’s pretty much like you can’t make them happy there.’ It’s a tough place to coach. The expectations are ridiculous.”
“Coach Alvarez, he seems to make the right calls and he doesn’t have a big enough ego where he’s like, I don’t need to sit there and ruin my health,” the source said. “I’m in a great position. People love me here. He’s really kind of like a god in this state…What do I need the headaches for?”