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Badger Bits: Mr. Alvarez goes to Chicago

The Big Ten football season unofficially kicks off one week from today with the Big Ten media days, where coaches and players will field questions about the upcoming season. Perhaps more importantly though, UW athletic director Barry Alvarez will be meeting with his 11 counterparts and Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany to begin hammering out the logistics of a bigger Big Ten. According to Andy Baggot of, Alvarez expects to leave Chicago with a good idea of how the conference will function after Nebraska becomes part of the fold. Alvarez says that the league wants to organize football first, and move on from there.

"First things first, the league wants to get football organized," Alvarez said, adding that Big Ten athletic directors "will have a very good idea (of the game plan) when we leave Chicago."

This should not come as a surprise to any Big Ten fan, though. Football has always been the cash cow of the league and it always will be, so it makes sense for the athletic directors to spend most of their time making sure that the new system will work correctly. In fact, Alvarez suggests that the Big Ten may have completely different plans for the other sports such as basketball:

"How you do it for football doesn't necessarily mean (that's) how you're going to do it for basketball or the other sports," Alvarez said.

Alvarez also appears to be toeing the league's line when it comes to competitive balance in the football divisions:

"You have to separate your brands," he said. "It can't be (you) just whack it down the middle and say, ‘You're in the West and you're in the East. Or you're in the North and you're in the South.'"

Whether or not the other schools agree with Alvarez or not remains to be seen, but it looks as though Big Ten fans will not have to wait much longer for answers to the many questions created when Nebraska officially joined the Big Ten.

The more public parts of the Big Ten media days will feature players and coaches taking questions at various press conferences. Wisconsin will have four notable attendees, including head coach Bret Bielema, running back John Clay, quarterback Scott Tolzien, and safety Jay Valai. Bielema will also lead off the live broadcast of the Big Ten coaches press conference on August 7th, starting at 11 AM EST on the Big Ten Network.


In other news from Badger Nation:

Yvette Healy has been named as Wisconsin's new softball coach, replacing Chandelle Schulte. Healy had previously been head coach as Loyola University in Chicago from 2004-2010. She has previously been named Horizon League coach of the year, when she lead Loyola to a league championship in 2007. Healy seems eager to take on the challenge of turning the UW softball program around, which has struggled to be competitive in recent years:

"I am thrilled to have the opportunity to join the University of Wisconsin family," Healy said. "The UW athletic department has a world-renowned legacy of winning on a national stage and in the Big Ten. I am thrilled to partner with the inspirational leadership team of Barry Alvarez, Shawn Eichorst and Terry Gawlik to bring Badger softball to national prominence."

The Detroit News has its preview up of the Badgers for the 2010 football season. They preview the players to watch, along with the best and worst case scenarios, the four keys to a successful season, as well as the most likely outcome for the Cardinal and White.

The Badgers are also getting some mentions as a team with high betting value. Obviously, if you don't live in Las Vegas this information may not matter much, but it's refreshing to see people recognizing that the Badgers have a lot of factors working in their favor as they work to upset the Buckeyes as Big Ten champions.

Wisconsin also made's list of best conference games for 2010. The October 16th game against Ohio State in Madison made the list as the second best conference game this year, only trailing the Red River Rivalry between Texas and Oklahoma. The matchup with the Buckeyes is looking like a good one, as both teams have a good chance of entering the game undefeated. The game will be Wisconsin's only night game, and has a good chance of being played on national television.

Adam Holt at the Badger Herald details why Big Ten expansion and a championship game will be good for the Badgers. If the new divisions end up being an east-west split, it certainly looks like the Badgers will have plenty of opportunities to boost their national standing and get more prestigious bowl assignments.

The Big Ten has also been named the cleanest basketball conference, according to an anonymous poll of 20 college basketball coaches. The SEC came in as the 'dirtiest' in recruiting, garnering 14 votes. It certainly feels good to see the Big Ten is still playing by the rules.

And finally, defensive end JJ Watt announced on Twitter that he has set his charitable foundation in motion, the Justin J. Watt Foundation. Watt also described the mission of his new organization. 

40 days until kickoff!