When he arrived in Madison in 1990, Barry Alvarez was charged with building the University of Wisconsin football program into a perennial Big Ten power. Mission accomplished. Thirty years later, Alvarez – who is in year fifteen as the University’s Athletic Director – is facing perhaps a more significant challenge: presiding over a department that stands to lose millions due to a compressed football season that will – for now – operate without fans in attendance at Camp Randall. Even parents will be staying at home.
“That’s a local decision,” Alvarez tells Wisconsin’s Afternoon News. “I asked about it. I questioned it. I talked to a congressmen about it. Basically they are saying, ‘you got people from out of town coming in, eating at restaurants, staying at hotels,’ they just didn’t want to take a chance. I had to tell my own daughter she couldn’t come.”
The 14th-ranked Badgers begin the season Friday night against Illinois. The only fan noise that will be heard will be computer generated.
“If we get to the point where we allow fans in, we’re probably talking about 10-15,000 maximum, I’m guessing,” Alvarez explains.
As for the financial hit?
“We’ll get a fraction of our TV money one way or the other, but, you know, we’re gonna be hit really hard. We’ll lose – depending on how many games we play…even if we play nine games – we’ll still lose in the proximity of $50-60 million dollars.”
As for the product on the field, Alvarez admits, “Well, we’ve got some question marks.”
Redshirt freshman quarterback, Graham Mertz takes over for the injured Jack Coan. Mertz will make his first collegiate start against Illinois.
There’s also the matter of replacing one of the nation’s premier running backs in Jonathan Taylor and leading wide receiver, Quintez Cephus.
“We had the best running back in the country for three straight years. You get to taking him for granted. So I’m anxious to see this team play.”
Alvarez is proud of the team’s commitment to following COVID-19 protocols, and admits there is no wiggle room in the Badgers 8-game conference-only schedule.
“We’ve got no bye dates. We’ve got nine straight weeks to play.”
It all begins Friday night at Camp Randall.