By TOM LEA
MADISON – Interim Wisconsin head coach Barry Alvarez was visibly frustrated with the way five assistants decided to take other offers at various schools throughout the country when he met with local reporters Sunday evening.
He wasn’t frustrated with the assistants leaving, but he was certainly upset with the way they were forced to act in a tight time frame. Alvarez didn’t specifically mention Bret Bielema and Dave Doeren when he brought it up, but he did allude to the fact several of his assistant coaches were forced to make a decision within a 24-hour span.
Chris Ash and Charlie Partridge, UW’s co-defensive coordinators, accepted the defensive coordinator and defensive line positions at Arkansas with Bielema, respectively. Matt Canada, UW’s offensive coordinator, accepted the same position with Dave Doeren, a former UW defensive coordinator, at NC State.
Zach Azzanni and Andy Buh accepted offers at Tennessee and California, respectively.
Alvarez said he felt so bad about losing five assistants that he considered returning as UW’s head coach in 2013 for ‘one day.’
Here is a transcript of Alvarez’s meeting with the press.
Alvarez: We’re moving along. We’re progressing. Everyone gets anxious, but I said all along we’re going to take our time and get the right guy. It’s only been 10 days. I couldn’t hire somebody if I wanted to until the latter part of this coming week. I feel good about it. I feel good about the due diligence and the people I’ve talked to. I have one more to visit with and then we’ll sit down and decide on the best person. I feel good about the candidates we’ve interviewed.
Reporter: There’s no urgency to do it before the Rose Bowl, after the Rose Bowl?
Alvarez: No, there isn’t. This is a dead period now. You can’t recruit anyhow. We tried our best and we’ve done a pretty good job of staying in contact that first week when we had recruits in that first weekend after Bret Bielema’s resignation. We had a good group of commitments in and felt pretty solid about all of them. Our guys have done a nice job of staying in contact with them. Hopefully we get a new coach in place, get some momentum and really get everything nailed down.
Reporter: Barry, did you expect to be more successful in keeping the current staff together or at least getting them to delay their decisions a little longer?
Alvarez: They couldn’t delay their decision because the other coaches were putting pressure on them and giving them 24 hours to make a decision. I’d like for them to stay, but they had to protect their families. A coach says you’ve got 24 hours to make this decision or the job isn’t there, they have to do something. I couldn’t promise them that the next coach would retain them. I was so emotionally zapped the other day with some of these guys…I think they all would have stayed. I was thinking of doing it myself just to keep them. But if I did it for a year we’d be in the same situation next year. It was unfortunate. I hated to do it. I couldn’t have sped the process up. I have to get to the people that I want to talk to. I just have to do it right. I feel bad for losing some very, very good coaches. They’ve been very professional throughout this. Their main concern is the kids and getting them ready for the game. They’ve given us everything as far as preparation, game planning and practice.
Reporter: You seem frustrated in the fact that maybe some guys were put in positions where they had to make a rushed judgment…
Alvarez: Well, I’m frustrated that coaches put them in that position. I’m not frustrated with (our guys). These guys had to do what they had to do. I just don’t like to operate like that.
Reporter: So how strongly did you consider becoming the head coach, or how long did you…
Alvarez: Well, I just told you, like a day. When I got home my wife said, ‘Are you sure?’ I said, ‘No, I’m not sure. Let me think about this.’ I did consider it. I felt so bad for a couple of those guys.
Reporter: Do you envision a scenario where if a new guy comes in and wants some of these guys, maybe if they haven’t signed any contracts that you try to bring one or two back? Or any of them? Is that possible?
Alvarez: We’ll see when that time comes.
Reporter: Has your short list changed in the last week?
Alvarez: My short list changed immediately because many of the guys were hired prior to our opening. But not really. My short list, some of the guys on my short list were loyal to their program. There were guys I wanted to contact to see if they’d be interested. Some guys are loyal to their program and loyal to their chancellor. They didn’t want to leave their program. They didn’t feel it was the time to leave the program.
Reporter: How big of a challenge is this for players with all these assistants now that they know they’re going?
Alvarez: You know what? They just went through this last year. Six of them were new last year and the year before that we had a couple changes. I think the older guys, the mature ones, understand this is a business and there’s going to be change. I think the kids have been unbelievable. The kids have been great. They’ve given us good attention. I just talked to the captains and they said the guys have handled it very well. I couldn’t be more pleased with them.
Reporter: Barry, how much have you enjoyed just coaching these guys the last four practices?
Alvarez: It’s fun to be around these kids. That’s just a great group of guys. It’s fun for me to be around this staff and be a little closer to the staff. It’s been enjoyable.
Reporter: Barry, what do you say to the fans? You have this kind of turnover in back-to-back seasons and they worry. Wisconsin is usually a destination place and to them it looks a little bit like a stepping-stone. What do you say to that?
Alvarez: That’s not a fair question because it’s not accurate. The guys that left last year, one took a head job and they all got promotions. You had the head coach that jumped and these guys have to make a decision. We’ll put somebody in place. We’re spoiled here because we were probably one of the most stable programs in the country with me being here 16 years and elevating an assistant for seven years. This happens around the country. I’ll hire a good coach. This program will continue being very good. For those that are panicking, don’t panic. We’ll take care of business here and this program will be in excellent hands.