MADISON, Wis. — Pat Richter knows how to conduct a successful coaching search.
As Wisconsin’s athletic director in 1989, Richter plucked Barry Alvarez from Notre Dame’s staff to rebuild the Badgers’ moribund football program.
Now that Alvarez, in his ninth year as Wisconsin’s athletic director, is working to find a replacement for his successor, Bret Bielema, Richter sees a program that has reached a level of success that could make some candidates hesitant to take on the job because of the high expectations.
“They have set a high bar,” Richter said, referring to the six Big Ten titles won by Wisconsin in the last 20 years, three by Alvarez and the last three by Bielema. “It’s going to be tough, much more difficult to do given what is happening today. I think it is going to be a tough road.”
Despite sources close to the program saying former Wisconsin offensive coordinator Paul Chryst remains the No. 1 target of Alvarez, Alvarez said Chryst is “going to stay at Pitt.”
Chryst, who coached at Wisconsin in 2002 and from 2005 through last season, is in his first season as coach at Pittsburgh.Alvarez — who said yesterday he will coach the Badgers in the Rose Bowl next month against No. 8 Stanford — helped Chryst get the job at Pittsburgh and doesn’t think it would be appropriate to hire him away after such a short time.
Chryst is from Madison and remains a popular figure at Wisconsin, and was considered the favorite to replace Bielema. Chryst released a statement this week saying he was committed to Pittsburgh.
The Panthers are 6-6 and will play Mississippi in the BBVA Compass Bowl. His contract includes a buyout of $6 million.A new name in the mix is Chris Petersen of Boise State.
Petersen, who has compiled an 83-8 record in seven seasons — five in the Western Athletic Conference and the past two in the Mountain West, is expected to interview Monday.Boise State is scheduled to join the Big East for football in 2013, but the decision by Rutgers and Louisville to leave the Big East has made that league less attractive.
Another source confirmed Alvarez has researched the résumé of University of Miami coach Al Golden. Alvarez has reportedly met with Western Kentucky coach Willie Taggart and is interested in speaking with former Wisconsin player Mel Tucker, the defensive coordinator/assistant head coach with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
When he spoke of a “tough road,” Richter was referring in part to the fight Wisconsin likely will face against division rival Ohio State. The Buckeyes finished 8-0 in the Big Ten and 12-0 overall this season under first-year coach Urban Meyer but were ineligible for postseason play because of NCAA violations committed by the previous staff.
Richter noted that a standout coordinator or a younger coach who has demonstrated success at a level below the Big Ten might be hungry to take on the challenge.
“Barry has got to sense what their commitment is,” Richter said. “It is the kind of thing where only he can determine that. It’s not a group effort — what do five people think?
“You’ve got to do it on your own because it is your responsibility and that relationship has to be one you feel comfortable with.”
As for now, there might be no better fill-in than Alvarez.
Alvarez coached Wisconsin for 16 seasons, compiling a 118-73-4 record that included a 3-0 record in the Rose Bowl — the Badgers’ only victories in eight trips to Pasadena, Calif.
Bielema left one game short of completing his seventh season, in part because of his desire to win a national title.
“I left a great place, a place that gave me my first opportunity as a head coach,” Bielema said during his introductory news conference at Arkansas. “We gave them three straight Big Ten championships, never been done (there) before. … But the opportunity to be in the SEC is something I really wanted.”