Barry Alvarez’s birth certificate says he’s about to turn 66. The bounce in his step on Wisconsin’s practice field suggests differently.
Trading his red sports coat and loafers for a sweatshirt and sneakers, the Wisconsin athletic director has balanced trying to find a new coach with preparing Wisconsin for its third consecutive Rose Bowl appearance.
“It’s fun to be around these kids,” Alvarez said Sunday in Madison, Wis., following Wisconsin’s fourth bowl practice. “It’s just a great group of guys. It’s fun for me to be around this staff, be a little closer to this staff. It’s been enjoyable.”
Alvarez, whose birthday is Dec. 30, will lead the Badgers on Jan. 1 against No. 8 Stanford. Wisconsin has lost the past two Rose Bowls.
Two days after his hand-picked successor, Bret Bielema, accepted the head coaching job at Arkansas, Alvarez announced earlier this month that he would end a seven-year absence on the sideline.
Alvarez, who led Wisconsin to all three of its Rose Bowl triumphs (1994, 1999, 2000), has an 8-3 record in bowl games.
His players are responding to the energy. Shortly after the first practice under Alvarez, junior tight end Brian Wozniak tweeted that it was Wisconsin’s best practice of the year, and subsequent players have agreed.
“They were shorter, more crisp and attacked the practice a little more knowing they were shorter,” receiver Jared Abbrederis said. “We were really getting after it and getting some good work in.”
Alvarez said he thinks he is close to finding a replacement for Bielema. South Florida coach Willie Taggart and Jacksonville Jaguars defensive coordinator Mel Tucker have spoken to Alvarez, and a third candidate is expected to crop up this week.
An announcement of selection of the new coach could come this week.
“I feel good about the candidates we have interviewed,” Alvarez said.
MICHIGAN DISCIPLINES TRIO
Michigan coach Brady Hoke has suspended three players indefinitely for a violation of team rules.
Cornerback J.T. Floyd, punter Will Hagerup and linebacker Brandin Hawthorne will not travel with the 19th-ranked Wolverines to Tampa, Fla., for the Outback Bowl against No. 11 South Carolina.
In a tweet issued by the university, Hoke said each of them used poor judgment. He didn’t specify which team rules were broken.
Floyd is a starting cornerback and Hagerup is the team’s top punter. Hawthorne is a backup linebacker.
Hoke tweeted that it’s an honor to play football for the University of Michigan and there are high standards and expectations for everyone that represents the program.
CYCLONES LOSE BACK
Iowa State running back Shontrelle Johnson will miss the Liberty Bowl on Dec. 31 in Memphis, Tenn., against Tulsa with a knee injury.
Cyclones coach Paul Rhoads said Johnson injured his right knee making a cut during practice Saturday. Rhoads said Johnson likely will have surgery in January.
Johnson started six games this season. He leads Iowa State (6-6) with 504 yards rushing.
Iowa State likely will start James White against Tulsa (10-3). White rushed for 469 yards on 5.3 yards per carry this season.
VOLS ADD TO STAFF
Zach Azzanni has been hired to coach wide receivers and serve as the recruiting coordinator for Tennessee, new Vols coach Butch Jones announced.
Azzanni was the wide receivers coach for Big Ten champion Wisconsin this season. He also served on Urban Meyer’s staff at Florida in 2010.
Azzanni coached at Central Michigan from 2007-09 under Jones.