If Barry Alvarez Didn't Have a Plan 2 Weeks Ago, He Dropped the Ball

Jeff Gross

Barry Alvarez reportedly knew more than two weeks ago that Bret Bielema was leaving Wisconsin. If he doesn't have someone already lined up for the job, he's made a mistake.

Last night, following Bret Bielema's departure from Wisconsin for Arkansas, we found out that Barry Alvarez learned about Bielema's intention to leave the program at least two weeks ago. In that period of time, Dave Doeren was hired by NC State without interviewing at Wisconsin. Last night, shortly after the announcement of Bielema's move to Arkansas, the trio of Darrell Hazell, Gus Malzahn and Steve Addazio all got snapped up.

There are a lot of good coaching candidates on the market at the moment, and I expect Wisconsin will talk to more than one of them. Our own Steven Godfrey is reporting that Western Kentucky head coach Steve Taggart has already interviewed with the Badgers. We'll probably hear more rumors about Paul Chryst, Darrell Bevell and who knows what other coaches over the next week. I have all the faith in the world that Alvarez will hire a qualified coach who has every chance to match Bielema's successes at Wisconsin.

But if Alvarez knew more than two weeks ago that Bielema was leaving and didn't already have his ducks in a row, he dropped the ball. It's possible that he was never interested in Doeren or Hazell as head coaching candidates, but that just feels unlikely. If he never thought of them as top candidates, I'd respectfully disagree and trust his judgment, but if he would have interviewed them in the event of an opening and let them walk to other schools, it's a mistake on his part.

Had this news dropped a couple of weeks ago, Doeren would have been my personal preferred choice. He went to NC State -- a program currently run by the AD who bankrupted Maryland athletics and gave them no choice but to choose the Big Ten over what most of their students and alumni wanted -- before he had an interview with Wisconsin. He's almost certainly locked in, and can't get out of his commitment. Hazell has yet to be announced as Purdue coach by the school after last night's events, but it looks like Wisconsin didn't lure him away.

I find it hard to believe that Doeren and Hazell would have taken the jobs they're about to sign on to if they knew Wisconsin was a realistic possibility when they first agreed to make those moves, and I find it hard to believe that Alvarez wouldn't want to bring either (or both) in for an interview.

The timing of Bielema's departure isn't great for Wisconsin, and if it's true that Alvarez knew about it prior to the end of the regular season, then hopefully he had a candidate lined up that he rated more highly than Doeren and Hazell well before they bolted for other jobs.

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