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Wisconsin State Journal sports reporters Jim Polzin and Todd Milewski reflect on what was learned at an event where University of Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez announced he's retiring at the end of June.

INDIANAPOLIS — Former University of Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez will stay busy in retirement.

Big Ten Conference commissioner Kevin Warren announced Thursday that Alvarez will be a special adviser to the conference for football. Warren made Alvarez’s position official during his opening remarks at Big Ten football media days at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

Alvarez’s last day as UW’s athletic director was June 30, ending a 32-year run at the university that was split between being the football coach (1990-2005) and the athletic director (2004-2021). He’ll start consulting Warren and the league on football matters on Aug. 2.

“I know a little bit about it,” Alvarez said with a smile.

Warren said Alvarez’s role will include working on possible expansion of the conference and the College Football Playoff, media and bowl partners, health and safety issues, scheduling issues and other projects.

He’ll also be a resource for league coaches. Throughout his tenure as UW’s athletic director, Alvarez leaned on his experience as a coach to effectively work with the coaches in the department. He said having common ground with league coaches will help foster better communication between them and the conference.

Last year, league coaches were vocal about their displeasure when the Big Ten canceled the 2020 season, then brought it back once daily COVID-19 testing became more viable.

“I think maybe coaches could feel a little more free to visit with me about some things, some concerns that we might be able to correct and ways we can get better,” Alvarez said.

“A lot of times (when) you make decisions in football, I think it’s important to go to the coaches, go to those that are that are in the field and see what their opinions are. And in a lot of times, they’ll dig down to their players to get some answers. The better relations, the better communications makes things a lot better for everyone.”

Warren praised Alvarez’s knowledge of the conference in announcing his position.

“(Alvarez) epitomizes success, integrity, hard work, creativity, and intelligence in the Big Ten Conference,” Warren said. “I trust Barry Alvarez implicitly. I have known him since my time as a student at the University of Notre Dame, he was the defensive coordinator. He means everything to this conference.”

He wasn’t ready to tip his hand, but Alvarez said there are issues he’s ready to attack soon.

“I have a few things that I have in mind that I think could help,” Alvarez said. “(Things that) I think that have concerned the coaches over the years that I think we have to address. I don’t particularly want to talk about it publicly, but there are some things that I think we need to address.”

Texas and Oklahoma made waves this week after the Houston Chronicle reported the programs are exploring leaving the Big 12 and had reached out to the SEC about potentially joining. Alvarez told reporters significant realignment like that seemed out of the blue, but was “something that you certainly have to have your antenna up for.”

Alvarez is the winningest football coach in Badgers history (119-74-4), leading the program to three Big Ten titles and three Rose Bowl wins. He coached Ron Dayne during his Heisman Trophy season, marking just the second Heisman winner in school history. Alvarez was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2010. The school’s athletic teams won 16 national championships with Alvarez as athletic director.

At his retirement ceremony in April, Alvarez said he and wife, Cindy, wanted to spend time with family and travel. He said his new post in the Big Ten won’t change that.

“I can do this from anywhere,” he said. “I’ve got a (knee) surgery coming up, so I can’t do any traveling now but my wife’s got plans to go to Paris and some other places. We’ll get our traveling in.

“I’ll be able to do this job and I don’t need to be in the office to do it.”


'There's one Barry Alvarez': Here's how former players, colleagues will remember Wisconsin's AD as he heads into retirement

Barry Alvarez’s tenure at the University of Wisconsin spanned more than three decades and intersected with the lives of countless people.

Some became star NFL players. Others coached for him. A few were peers with him as an athletic director. They all have stories, and we collected some of the best in the lead-up to Alvarez’s retirement.

In their own words, Ron Dayne tells the story of his first interaction with Alvarez being a big hug in his home in New Jersey, Gene Smith shares memories of Alvarez's presence in Big Ten Conference boardrooms, while Paul Chryst expresses his appreciation for the opportunities Alvarez brought to his life.

This article originally ran on madison.com.

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