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December 30, 2012
Alvarez talks final preparations
Wisconsin coach Barry Alvarez addressed the media for the final time before the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1 against Stanford.
The following is a transcript from that interview:
Well, it's fun getting close to game time. I've really been impressed with what our players have done. The coaching staff has been very professional throughout this whole ordeal. I couldn't be more pleased with the effort that they've given us, that the players have given us.
We've prepared very well. We have great respect for Stanford. As I watch film and study them, they're very similar in their beliefs and what they do are very similar to what we do.
As I told our players, bring your big boy pads, because it will be a physical game, and it should be a fun football game. If you like football, it will be a fun football game.
Can you describe how you've divided your time this past month between AD duties and coaching duties? And along the lines I saw you just hired a volleyball coach. Were you literally working on that between practice and events here? It really worked out pretty well because we were in the finals. So we would practice two days, we'd have two days off, and those two days off I used to interview coaching candidates both football and volleyball.
So you just got to use all 24 hours, and I did that. I like to keep busy, and I certainly was.
There's been a lot of talk this week about quantity versus quality when it comes to the practices. How much did your own experiences in college affect that philosophy? I always try to think like a player. I hated to waste time. I really value and respect the players' time. So I want to be very efficient in how we practice. I want to get X amount of repetitions in, that is the important thing.
So if we can get it done in an hour and 15 minutes or an hour and a half rather than two and a half hours, that's what I'd prefer to do. That's way I practiced. That's the way I did it.
An example, yesterday we're trying to decide whether to go outside. Yesterday was a bonus day as far as I looked at it. It was a second Wednesday practice, it's a grind day, it's a workday. It's the last workday that you have.
But we already had three of those, and I really pushed our players. We scrimmaged one day. We were very physical. We went ones against ones.
So yesterday was a bonus day. As I sat in the staff meeting, I said we'll decide - and I was only going to go for 45 minutes, put them in spiders, which is no pads. Just go out. I wanted timing and mental preparation.
I wanted to save their legs. Eddie Faulkner, our tight end coach, who played for me, Eddie said, you know what, Coach, if I were a player, I would be praying for rain. I would hope that it rained so we didn't have to go all the way out there in practice. I would pray that we could just go down stairs and have a walk through. I said, enough said. We're going to go downstairs, cancel the buses. We're going to have a walkthrough.
I felt Eddie was thinking like a player. That's how I normally try to think. What is best for them. Sometimes they need to be pushed. But in this case, our guys have done everything that we've asked them to do they needed a little break. They needed to get their legs back and get ready for the game because that's where they were. So that's always very conscious on my mind.
Good morning, Barry. I was wondering, I'll ask you the same question that I asked Coach Shaw. When this game starts, what are the things that you're going to be most concerned about? I always worry about if our guys are ready and that they're ready for the tempo and the speed of the game. That's what I'll judge early on. Other than that, I'm really not worried about anything. I just want them to play. I told them I want the same team to show up. Bowl games are different. Most teams are different than the last game they've played. There's a month. There are a lot of ways that they can be distracted. There are a lot of thing that's can affect a team. I want the same team to play that played in Indianapolis, to play in the Rose Bowl. That's what I want to see. That's what concerns me. I don't worry about Stanford. I can't control Stanford, but I can control us.
What is Coach Andersen's role here? Is he just here to observe? Where will he be during the game, for example? I may put him on the sidelines just because you can't pay for that publicity because I figure we'll get a few shots of him on the sideline, and that's invaluable in recruiting and selling the program, and selling himself. His role here is to - he and his staff have come out and watched a practice. They're evaluating our current players. They're trying to study the roster as far as recruiting what they need as far as next year and the year after that.
Then Gary has been very respectful of our team, our coaches, and does not want to be a distraction. Everyone certainly appreciates that.
I think the defense has allowed two touchdowns or less in six of the last eight games. What do you see out of them that makes them maybe more prepared for this game than maybe a year ago or two years ago? What do you like with the defense right now? Whether they're more prepared or not, you have a month to practice against a team that's very similar and does the things that we do. We go against each other every day, which is like practicing against Stanford.
So I like to think, as I watch Stanford, and as I watched them play, some of the things that they do, people misalign, miscommunicate, hopefully because we've been able to practice against it so often, that we'll be able to get lined up. I mean, that's the first thing you have to do is be aligned properly. Then allow yourself to play fast.
Why did you choose you to be the coach in this game rather than one of the coordinators or an assistant? Is there anything that surprised you or changed in football? First of all, I didn't choose myself. The players chose me. Bret asked me, when he told me he was stepping down, he said why don't you take it? And I didn't feel it was proper to name myself the head coach, to step in. But later that day, when the players called, the captains called and asked if I would do it, I felt an obligation to do that.
What's changed? Nothing has changed. Football is football. There are different schemes. There are different ways that people play. I think it's college football is cyclical. There is always a trend. There is always a fad. But the bottom line is you still have to block, and tackle and have good fundamentals. That will never change in football.
People have certain impressions of a team that they may not have seen that much that has lost five games. I wonder, what would you tell people that haven't seen Wisconsin a lot, and they say this is a five loss team. What would you tell them about Wisconsin? I would say we're a pretty good football team. We're a better football team. This is a group of young players that probably have persevered and are more resilient than any group I've ever been around. They've gone through an offensive line coaching change. They've lost three overtime games. They've lost two games where they've had a chance in the last possession to win, yet they came out the next week and played well. They lost their head coach.
First time ever a coach has won the opportunity to come to a Rose Bowl and not coached in a Rose Bowl. Yet they come back to practice. They come back. As I told them, I'm so proud of them because they're guys that have chemistry. They have good chemistry and great leadership. And if you deal with adversity in a positive way, you get stronger, and that's exactly what they've done.
So, if you just look at our - how many losses we have, it's very misleading. I'm hoping Stanford's looking at that because we're a much better team, much better football team than a five loss team.
The team will have the chance today to go up and see the fans at the pep rally. How much is that going to drive home how big of an event this is? Well, this is our third straight year here. You know, the guys are going to play, and they know how big of an event this is. It's always fun.
I can remember one year when we were here back to back. I made the coaches - the coaches didn't want to come. They wanted to go back and watch film, and I said, no, I want you to see this. I want you to see this pep rally, because it was so impressive with all of our people here. They were glad that they did.
So I think it sends a message that people appreciate them. They're out here following them, and supporting them, and I think it's just good.
How have you handled game week, first? And then, how impressed are you with your coordinators, assistant coaches who are already destined for other jobs on the way they prepared your team? Well, I'll answer the second part. I've said all along, I've been very impressed with the professionalism that the entire staff has shown. We have two of them that are staying, the rest of them are leaving to take other jobs, yet they committed themselves immediately. They wanted to coach in this game. They felt an obligation to their players, and they've done an outstanding job. I couldn't ask anymore of those guys.
I gave them time when we weren't practicing that they could go to wherever and look for housing or whatever. But when they're in town and it's time to practice, they've taken care of their business.
I'm sure not much gets past you. But the players have said that they call you the Godfather, not to your face, but I'm sure you've heard that. What are your impressions of that nickname? What are my impressions of that? I've heard that before (laughing). I take that as a compliment, but the Godfather was Italian. I'm Spanish.
Obviously, you're in a different position this time around. But with this being Wisconsin's third straight Rose Bowl and particularly after losing the last two seasons, what is the team's mindset? How is it different this time around and is it different this time around? I don't think it's any different. I don't think there is anymore resolve that we have to win this game. We're 0 2. You just take a look at it as it's another game. We're going to prepare as well as we can. We're going to play as hard as we can.
I think we've done some good things and done some things differently. I've tried to do some things differently to prepare them for the game. But I don't think those last two games have anything to do, other than the guys who have been here before have experienced this.
There is nothing new. Going to practice and the weekly preparation and what you go through in a Rose Bowl, it can be a distraction. But I think the fact that they've been here, we've given them a lot of free time. But when it's time to practice and meet, they do it.
You talked about some of the resilience of this team, and one of those guys is quarterback Curt Phillips. He talked about how his parents joked it was nice not to see him on crutches for once during this week at the hotel. But just talk about the time you've spent with him? Talk about some of that leadership he brings and what you like about Curt? The thing that really impresses me with Curt, the players and the rest of the guys on the team like to play for him. They want him in the huddle. They like his face and his voice talk talking to them. They want to play hard for him. He's just got a way about him. He's a natural leader, and he's got a way about himself that I think draws the other players to him.
I've really been impressed with him. I've really gotten to know him a little more in the last three weeks, and I couldn't be more impressed. He's kind of a combination of a Brooks Bollinger and John Stocco, very mature. He does things the right way on and off the field, so the other players really respect him.
Barry, any particular moment or part of coaching this week that in particular has your juices flowing and kind of took you back to 1999 or 1993? Every day. Every day. Just give me a whistle. That's all I need is a whistle and a bunch of guys to coach, and I feel very comfortable with that. And it's been fun for me. This has been like a gift to be able to do this and on this stage is truly special.
I just want to clarify something. When you were talking about the staff, you said that two are staying on and all other coaches are leaving. Is that solidified now that Hammock and Ben are the only two staying? I don't know that. I know those two are staying for sure, and I don't know about any others. I'm not trying to make any statement or cut you off or anything. But I'm not trying to make a statement about who is going where or whatever. But I know two of them are staying.
Going back to what you said, getting the juices flowing with coaching. A lot of people wondered if this experience would make you want to get back into this full time. Has it had the opposite effect that you've gotten a real appreciation for your athletic director job over the last few weeks? I've really, and I've said this publicly, I was very close and thought about coming back again another year just because I felt badly for a couple of the coaches who were put in very tough situations. They were given 24 hours to make a decision whether they took another job or not, and I couldn't promise them a job. I didn't know whether they'd have a job at our place or not because I couldn't do that to whatever coach I was going to hire.
But if I took the job, I could keep them. Emotionally, I was really struggling with that. I went home and told my wife, I said, Cindy, I think I should stay on for another year. Besides that, we'll be a good team next year.
And she said, well, you'll be in the same boat a year from now. And you can't do it for one year. You'd have to do it for three, and I didn't think I could do that. I couldn't do it at the pace that I want to do it.
So that lasted for about 12 hours, and I love the job. I love my athletic directors job. I've got good people around me, and I really enjoy that.
How much would a win on Tuesday kind of validate all the work? And you mentioned all the turmoil that they've gone through, how much would a win be a reward for everything they've been through this year? You know, that's the thing to me. It would really be a great life lesson for these players. I think they'd learn quite a bit about how to deal with things, how to deal with adversity, how to deal with situations and make something positive come out of it, especially after two tough losses. They could have won either game the last two years. They had opportunities to win, but couldn't close the deal.
So I think it would be a tremendous lesson for them and very positive if they could win.
Strangely on game day you're going to be the new guy on the sidelines. Will your involvement on headsets be the same as it was seven years ago? Yeah, it will. I'm the type of manager. I hire people. I give them and instruct them exactly what I want. I give them directions. I let them do their job. As an assistant coach, that's what I wanted. When Lou Holtz hired me as defensive coordinator, he let me run the defense. He would give me parameters to follow. I like that.
So this is no different. I did that with my other coordinators or when I was coaching before. I told them what I wanted. They ran it, and I managed the game. It will be the same this time.
You've celebrated your birthday out here before. Anything new on the gift list or wish list this time around? I have everything that anyone would want. But the thing that I cherish is spending time with friends and family, and that's what we'll do tonight. Last night I was with a group of friends, some very close friends. Tonight will be friends and family. Cindy found a restaurant that closed down and gave it to us. So that is the best gift I can have.
The following transcript was provided by collegepressbox.com