Barry Alvarez is in his 12th year as Director of Athletics at the University of Wisconsin in 2015-16, and his 10th without the additional title of head football coach. Alvarez served as A.D. and football coach from 2004-05. Wisconsin has enjoyed remarkable success during Alvarez’s tenure at the head of the athletic department, winning a combined 14 team national titles and 54 conference regular-season or tournament crowns since he took over.
In Alvarez’s 11 previous seasons as A.D., Wisconsin has finished at least 22nd in the NACDA Director’s Cup five times, including a 16th-place finish in 2006-07. That is the second-best finish in school history. Six different teams have won national titles during Alvarez’s tenure, including four in the magical 2005-06 season. Thirteen different teams have been crowned as conference champions, including five in each of the 2005-06, 2006-07, 2007-08 and 2012-13 seasons.
On the academic side, more than 1,000 student-athletes have earned Academic All-Big Ten honors in Alvarez’ tenure. Wisconsin has had at least one Capital One Academic All-America pick for 35 consecutive years. That ties UW with Georgia and Bucknell for the second-longest streak in the nation, trailing only Nebraska’s run of 43-straight seasons with an Academic All-American.
Since 2009-10, UW student-athletes have achieved at least a 3.0 cumulative GPA. At the end of spring 2014, the cumulative GPA for all student-athletes was 3.02. In 2013-14, seven sports either set or tied their highest term or cumulative team grade-point averages ever.
Alvarez was appointed in the spring of 2008 as one of the chairs of the NCAA’s Football Academic Enhancement Group, which was formed to review and recommend improvements for the APR rating. He also serves on the NCAA Football Issues Committee. In addition, Alvarez was named “Person of the Year” by the Big Ten Club of Southern California in 2008. Alvarez was voted into the state of Wisconsin Athletic Hall of Fame and the Rose Bowl Hall of Fame in 2009 and will be inducted into the UW Athletics Hall of Fame in 2010.
Elected to the College Football Hall of Fame, Alvarez guided Wisconsin’s football fortunes for 16 seasons (1990-2005). He has been at the forefront of the revival of the Badger athletic program during his entire tenure in Madison. He piloted Wisconsin to three Big Ten and Rose Bowl titles (including back-to-back in 1998-99) en route to becoming the winningest football coach in school history (118-74-4 record). In December, 2012 he returned to sidelines one last time and guided the Badgers against Stanford in the 2013 Rose Bowl. Two years later, he came back one last time to lead UW to a 34-31 upset win over Auburn in the 2015 Outback Bowl.
Alvarez was just the 10th coach in Big Ten history to win 100 games at one conference institution. The 1993 national coach of the year, he was a two-time (1993 and 1998) Big Ten coach of the year and a finalist for ESPN’s coach of the decade (1990s) honor. He received the Victor Award’s 1999 National Coach of the Year accolade and was the 2004 AFCA Region 3 Coach of the Year.
Alvarez retired from coaching at the conclusion of the 2005 season in order to concentrate solely on running the Division of Intercollegiate Athletics. He has made a lasting impression on the Wisconsin sports scene. His well-documented turnaround of the once-moribund Badger football program has helped to allow the school’s entire athletic department to blossom into one of the nation’s finest and most respected organizations in college sports.
When Alvarez arrived in Madison in 1990, Wisconsin had compiled a 9-36 record during the previous four seasons and attendance at Camp Randall Stadium had dipped to an average of 41,734 per game (54 percent of capacity). The program sorely needed a boost and got it when new Director of Athletics Pat Richter hired Alvarez from Notre Dame, where he had been an assistant coach under Lou Holtz.
Over the next 16 seasons Alvarez transformed the football program and, subsequently, the culture of athletics at the UW. The success of the football program ignited and heightened interest in Badger sports. Alvarez’s list of accomplishments at Wisconsin is remarkable.
Alvarez grew up in Langeloth, Pa., a small town among the coal mines and steel mills in western Pennsylvania. He starred as a prep linebacker and went on to play at Nebraska (1965-67) for legendary head coach Bob Devaney. Alvarez was the leading tackler for the 1967 Cornhuskers, who led the nation in total defense and created a school-record 40 turnovers. Alvarez played in both the Sugar and Orange bowls at Nebraska (the Cornhuskers were 25-7 during his three varsity seasons).
Alvarez is a 1969 graduate of the University of Nebraska, where he played linebacker and went on to earn his master’s degree. He received a Distinguished Alumnus Award from his alma mater in 2003. Alvarez and his wife, Cindy, were co-campaign chairs in the effort to bring a Gilda’s Club (a free support center for families dealing with cancer) to Madison. That facility opened in the fall of 2008. In addition, Alvarez serves on the Board of Directors of the MACC Fund (Midwest Athletes Against Childhood Cancer). Alvarez and his wife, Cindy, are the parents of three grown children – daughters Dawn and Stacy (Mrs. Mike Delzer) and son Chad (wife Stephanie). Barry and Cindy are grandparents to Joe and Jake Ferguson; Grace and Jackson Delzer; and Scarlett and Barry John Thomas Alvarez.