Editor's Note: Adam Hoge is the original founder of Bucky's 5th Quarter and currently covers the Chicago Bears for WGN Radio 720 and WGNRadio.com. We're excited to once again feature his work on the site.
As the college football world scrambles to figure out what's wrong with Wisconsin, allow me to take one potential problem off your list:
After Gary Andersen became the second head coach in 24 months to abandon the Badgers for a lesser program, everyone wants to point fingers at something and/or someone, and, not surprisingly, Alvarez quickly became a target of some of those fingers Wednesday.
Yahoo!'s Pat Forde wrote: "The problem might be you, Wisconsin. The problem might be Alvarez himself."
Sports Illustrated's Brian Hamilton wrote: "It would behoove Alvarez and Wisconsin to adjust their thinking, and consider how the job fits the coach's needs as much as that coach fits what they want."
Here's the thing. Barry Alvarez built the Wisconsin football program from the ground up and coached the Badgers to three Big Ten titles and three Rose Bowl victories before overseeing three more Big Ten titles and Rose Bowl appearances as the school's athletic director.
More on Andersen's departure
Possible reasons for Gary Andersen leaving UW
I know you guys are hurting, but before you can move on from a breakup, you have to analyze the reasons why it went south in the first place. Let's dive in.
More on Andersen's departure
I didn't realize that was a problem.
In fact, I'm still not convinced there is a problem.
Bret Bielema was Alvarez's handpicked successor and he won games using Alvarez's formula of running the football, playing stout defense and, most importantly, developing second and third-tier recruits into All-Big Ten performers. The program didn't skip a beat.
Then, when Bielema shocked everyone (including Alvarez) by bolting for Arkansas, Alvarez found the next guy to run the program his way. And, under Gary Andersen, the program once again didn't skip a beat. In fact, after only winning eight games in Bielema's last season, the Badgers won nine in 2013 and have so far won 10 in 2014.
You can even argue that Wisconsin improved its record in the last two seasons in spite of Andersen. This is the same coach who completely botched a last-minute drive at Arizona State last year and whose team came out with a clunker on Senior Day against Penn State with a BCS bowl on the line. Then, this year, Andersen anointed Tanner McEvoy the starting quarterback despite every source around the program saying that Joel Stave was clearly the better quarterback in training camp.
That's when things got really weird.
Three days after Wisconsin's season-opening loss to LSU, Andersen announced that Stave was being shut down indefinitely due to a shoulder injury. That was a lie. Stave wasn't hurt. Hours later, Andersen backtracked and admitted the quarterback was not injured.
At some point that day, the idea of the "yips" was introduced and Stave didn't exactly deny it. Meanwhile, that notion was never shot down by Andersen because, well, it conveniently excused his horrible decision to anoint McEvoy the starter.
And thus began the season-long, week-after-week narrative on television broadcasts that McEvoy won the job because Stave developed the yips.
The truth is that Stave's confidence was bruised by Andersen's decision and the quarterback probably didn't handle it as well as he could have. Sources say Stave contemplated transferring, which may explain why Andersen felt the need to shut him down while the situation was resolved.
Meanwhile, Wisconsin lost two games it would have won with a competent quarterback. It won two games it probably would have won if Stave was originally named the starter. Anyone who watched Wisconsin's opener against LSU knows that McEvoy was not ready to be a starting quarterback on that stage. That loss, and Wisconsin's loss to a bad Northwestern team in the Big Ten opener, were a direct result of poor quarterback play. It was a direct result of Andersen's poor decision.
After the Northwestern loss, Stave was named the starter and a small sub-package with McEvoy running the read-option was introduced. Wisconsin won seven straight games and averaged over 40 points per game during the win streak.
Basically, Wisconsin got back to Barry Alvarez football and started winning again.
So how is Alvarez the problem again?
Sure, Wisconsin has a unique situation with Alvarez as the athletic director. He's sort of like an NFL general manager the head coach has to report to. That's not normal in college football, where coaches usually have full control over their program.
But it's what works at Wisconsin, where the Badgers are the third-winningest Big Ten team since 1993 behind only Ohio State and Nebraska. That's not a small sample size. That's 21 years.
Adapting the program to fit a new coach instead of finding a coach that fits Wisconsin would be a mistake. In a college football landscape where too many programs lack self-awareness, Wisconsin knows what Wisconsin is. It's a second-tier program that will always be in the mix for conference titles and maybe someday will catch lightning in a bottle and be in the mix for a national championship. That nearly happened in 2011 when Russell Wilson stopped by for a season, but a couple Hail Marys ended that dream. And even in that season, offensive coordinator Paul Chryst ran a run-first offense with Heisman-finalist running back Montee Ball.
But Chryst, now the head coach at Pitt and overwhelming favorite to replace Andersen at Wisconsin (according to multiple sources close to the program), also had a knack for developing quarterbacks that were just good enough to kill teams on play-action and keep the running lanes open. Ask Scott Tolzien, the fourth-year pro who went from an afterthought at Wisconsin to a career NFL backup under Chryst's tutelage.
Chryst, a Madison native and former Wisconsin quarterback himself, understands exactly what Wisconsin is and, more importantly, understands what it's like to work for Barry Alvarez.
And he certainly wouldn't have picked McEvoy over Stave.
Look, Wisconsin isn't changing anytime soon. It's a great school with high academic standards and a pool of money available to assistants that isn't going to compare to the SEC. But with those obstacles also comes great facilities, an unbelievable game-day atmosphere and a football team that's always ready to win.
And it's Barry Alvarez who built all that.
So maybe Wisconsin isn't the problem. Maybe Barry Alvarez isn't the problem. Maybe Gary Andersen was the problem.