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Six Keys to University of Wisconsin Badgers Football Success Today

Updated on December 31, 2017
Paul Kuehn profile image

Paul was a student at the University of Wisconsin in the 60s and also served in the Navy during America's involvement in the Vietnam War.

University of Wisconsin Football Fans at Camp Randall Stadium

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Wisconsin Badgers Football Success

University of Wisconsin Badgers football was resurrected in 1990, and it has had great success since then. In the 1990s Wisconsin went to the Rose Bowl three times and won. The Badgers returned to the Rose Bowl following the 2010 season, and they went once again to Pasadena on January 2, 2012, to face the Oregon Ducks. Since 1990 Badger football has been in the hands of head coaches Barry Alvarez, Brett Bielema, Gary Anderson and presently Paul Chryst. While Alvarez was the coach from 1990 through the 2005 season, Wisconsin finished with a 118-73-4 record and went to 11 bowl games. Coach Bielema had an outstanding 60-18 record from 2006 through 2012 and took the Badgers to a post-season bowl game every year. Gary Anderson took the Badgers to two postseason games 2013-2014, and the present coach Paul Chryst had a 10-3 record in both 2015 and 2016 and also took Wisconsin to two bowl games.

During the 1986-1989 seasons, Wisconsin won a total of nine games. Stretching even further back starting from 1967, Wisconsin football was lethargic with the Badgers having winless seasons in 1967 and 1968. What happened after Alvarez took over to turn Wisconsin football around and make it once again competitive and successful? This article will examine Badger football success during the past two decades. Many of my statistics are taken from Wikipedia.

Keys to Wisconsin Badgers Football Success

The six keys to recent Wisconsin Badgers football success have been the following:

1. Recruiting

Before Athletic Director Pat Richter hired Barry Alvarez as head coach in 1990, Wisconsin had very little success recruiting good high school players from outside of the state. Worse yet, the Badgers were losing a lot of their good high school prospects to out of state Big Ten schools. I remember watching the University of Michigan playing in the Rose Bowl in 1990 and finding out that U. of M's starting All-American left guard was from a small town in Wisconsin not far from where I grew up and went to school. Upon hearing his name, Dean Dingman, it brought back memories of me playing football against his old man in 1961. This kid went out of state to Michigan because the Badgers were awful at the time and Michigan was a perennial powerhouse. After Alvarez was hired, I remember him saying that the first thing he would do was to encircle the state of Wisconsin and not let in-state blue-chip players get away to out-of-state schools. Alvarez also started to actively recruit players from outside of the state, specifically concentrating on the Philadelphia and New Jersey areas. In the past 20 years, the Badgers have had very good success recruiting from outside the state of Wisconsin. All-American and Heisman winner Ron Dayne was from New Jersey, and I believe the 2013 Heisman winner fourth runner-up, Montee Ball, is from Missouri. Alvarez's philosophy of circling the wagons has worked because most of Wisconsin's top linemen of today are from in state as well as skill players such as running backs and receivers.

2. Coaching

Athletic Director Pat Richter hired Barry Alvarez because he had coached defense with Lou Holtz at a winning Notre Dame University program. Although Alvarez only had a 1-10 record in 1990 his first year as head coach, he started to recruit good players from both inside and outside the state of Wisconsin. in 1992 when I saw the Badgers play and beat a 12th ranked Ohio State team, I knew Wisconsin had turned the corner. The next year Wisconsin won the Big Ten title and went to the Rose Bowl. During Alvarez's 16 years as coach, Wisconsin's overall bowl record was 8-3, and attendance at Camp Randall Stadium increased dramatically. Alvarez also coached 59 NFL draft choices, including nine first-round draft picks. More importantly, Alvarez hired good coaching assistants during his coaching years.

One of his coaches, defensive coordinator Brett Bielema, was handpicked by Alvarez to be his successor after Barry retired from head coaching and became athletic director in 2006. Under head coach Bielema and his coaching assistants, the Badgers continued to play at a very high level each year. in 2012 defensive coordinator Dave Doeren became head coach of Northern Illinois University, and then Bielema lost his offensive coordinator Paul Chryst as head coach to the University of Pittsburg. The loss of Chryst hurt somewhat because he was a master at designing offensive plays and then calling them at the right time during games. Chryst, however, returned as head coach in 2015.

3. Offensive Line Play

Over the past two decades, the Badgers have been more of a successful running team than a passing team. All of this starts with an outstanding offensive line. My old high school football coach once told us that anyone can be a back, but it takes a special person to be a lineman. In 2011 Wisconsin had an offensive line which averaged 6'5" 315 pounds. All of the players on the line were very athletic and adept at opening big holes for the Badgers' running backs. That year center Peter Konz and guard Kevin Zeitler were selected as All-Americans. In 2010 tackle Gabe Carimi and guard John Moffitt were chosen as All-Americans. Wisconsin has also had other outstanding linemen such as Joe Thomas and Bill Nagy who are now playing in the NFL.

4. Running Back Play

Wisconsin has been blessed with great running backs over the past 22 years. Terrell Fletcher was one of Barry Alvarez's first really good backs in the early 1990s. Later, Ron Dayne came on the scene in the late 1990s and became the Badger's second Heisman winner in 1999. Interestingly, Wisconsin's first Heisman winner, Alan Ameche, was also a running back in the early 1950s. Michael Bennett, John Clay, and most recently Montee Ball and Melvin Gordon have also been outstanding running backs.

5. Recruitment of Special Players

Following the end of the 2010 season, the quarterback situation for the Badgers was a big question mark. That was until the Badgers were able to recruit Russell Wilson who was released from his final year of football eligibility at North Carolina State University. Wilson had already graduated from N.C. State and was playing minor league baseball. Brett Bielema and the Badgers were able to recruit him, and Wilson immediately proceeded to be a great quarterback who could both run, pass and make big plays when needed in games. He was greatly responsible for helping the Badgers win the Big Ten championship game in 2011 against Michigan State University.

6. The Fans

Much like the Green Bay Packers, Wisconsin Badgers football fans have helped make the team successful. When Alvarez took over as head coach in 1990, the Badgers were averaging only about 42,000 in attendance for home games. Over the past two decades, the 80,000 capacity Camp Randall Stadium has been sold out for practically every home game by rabid fans who create an electrifying atmosphere. Go to any home game or watch one on national TV, like the Ohio State game of 2010, and you'll know what I mean. Is it any coincidence that the Badgers won 16 straight games at home matching LSU for the longest current streak nationally? A sizable representation of Wisconsin fans is also present at many of the Badgers away games. The cheering fans certainly give Wisconsin a 12th man advantage.

As long as Wisconsin has success on the field, outstanding coaches, and is able to recruit excellent players, football success will continue for the Badgers just as it has for college powerhouses like LSU and Alabama.

Winning from Within

Defining Wisconsin Football

Keys to University of Wisconsin Football Success

What is the most important key to University of Wisconsin football success?

See results

© 2011 Paul Richard Kuehn

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    • gehrig4 profile image

      gehrig4 6 years ago from Saint Charles, Missouri

      I hate to break it to you but Wisconsin is a cyclical program much like programs such as Michigan State and Iowa. They will have their good years and bad years but they will never be consistent powerhouses like Michigan and Ohio State can be. And there is nothing wrong with it. I am an Iowa fan and have accepted this.

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