By TOM LEA
MADISON – Now that Barry Alvarez has found Bret Bielema’s replacement it’s probably easy for him to take the high road when asked if there is any animosity left over in the way the former UW coach left for Arkansas.
But needless to say, Alvarez, who has voiced his frustration with the way Arkansas wooed Bielema during the hiring process without consulting him for permission, was sincere when he said he had no animosity toward Bielema.
“Bret did a good job for us here,” Alvarez said Saturday afternoon. “Some things I disagree with in how they were handled, but everybody handles things their own way. I’m way past that right now. I’m focusing on a football game and helping Gary (Andersen) finalize his staff and however I can help him in recruiting.
“I don’t sit there and hold a grudge on what happened, whether I agreed with it or not.”
Bielema accepted the head coaching position at Arkansas on Dec. 4 and was introduced in Fayetteville on Dec. 5. That move brought Alvarez out of retirement to coach the Rose Bowl, but more importantly, put him on a stressful hunt for the man to replace Bielema.
That eventually led to the hiring of Gary Andersen, a move that was announced as official on Thursday afternoon.
Alvarez, now with his new leader in place, said he would like to reestablish his relationship with Bielema at some point.
“Not right now, though,” Alvarez said. “Someday. Bret and I were too close and spent too much time together. We had a father-son relationship. We talked every day. I wouldn’t just throw that out, but right now is not the time.
What about scheduling a game against Arkansas?
“No,” Alvarez replied after thinking about it for a second. “I wouldn’t mind it though. We’ve got a lot of other issues in our league to worry about rather than whether we schedule Arkansas or not.”
PHILLIPS TO START ROSE BOWL
Freshman quarterback Joel Stave has been throwing regularly during practice each of the past few weeks, but has yet to receive official clearance to participate in full contact drills.
“He’s ready to play and he says he feels good,” Alvarez said. “But we’ll wait for total clearance and then make a decision for how we’re going to use him. If he’s cleared then we’ll use both quarterbacks.”
Stave suffered a broken left clavicle during the first play of the third quarter in UW’s late October loss to Michigan State. He has missed each of the past four games UW has played, including the 70-31 win over Nebraska in the Big Ten championship game on Dec. 1.
Senior Curt Phillips will start the Rose Bowl according to Alvarez.
“(He) won that championship game,” Alvarez said. “He’s earned the right to start.”
PUSH FOR BART MILLER
Alvarez said the truest mark of telling whether a coach is operating at a high level can be understood by reading the way players react around him. Judging by the way the offensive line continually improved throughout the course of the season it was apparent to Alvarez that Miller was doing things the right way.
That has led Alvarez to push for Andersen to keep Miller on his new staff, one that is currently in the process of being finalized.
“I think Bart Miller has done an unbelievable job and I’ve told Gary that,” Alvarez said. “I think Gary will consider him for the tight end (coach) position. I have to respect Gary and the people that he has ready to come. He told me he would definitely consider Bart for that and that’s something he’ll discuss.”
Both Ben Strickland and Thomas Hammock, UW’s secondary and running backs coach, are both expected to stay on Andersen’s staff, although Hammocks’ role hasn’t yet been determined.
Alvarez, when asked what he’s most looking forward to this Rose Bowl trip:
“The game. Disneyland doesn’t blow up my skirt anymore.”