66. Barry Alvarez
Barry Alvarez liked what he saw when he first laid eyes on Camp Randall in 1966. Then a junior linebacker for Nebraska, it was just another game for Alvarez when the team visited Madison.
Alvarez still laughs at the recollection of his Nebraska roommate, nose guard Wayne Meylan, complaining about all the noise on Langdon St. until the early morning hours. Meylan might have lost more sleep over the revelers than the Badgers, who were totally overmatched the next day.
The Cornhuskers routed Wisconsin 31-3, with Alvarez responsible for one of seven Nebraska takeaways. Alvarez intercepted a pass and returned it 25 yards before being brought down by a Wisconsin offensive lineman.
“I wasn’t tackled,” Alvarez likes to joke. “Rigor mortis set in.”
While that first memory of Camp Randall stays with him, there have been countless more that have followed.
Since 1990, as a head coach and an athletic director, Alvarez has been a part of some of the most meaningful moments the stadium’s history.
The 70-year-old Alvarez now has a panoramic view of Camp Randall Stadium from the south end zone that serves as a daily reminder of not only what has been built, but all the work that went into building and sustaining a winner.
“Since we’ve turned the corner in the early ’90s, we’ve been pretty good every year,” Alvarez says.
The Badgers have reached a bowl game in 15 straight seasons, which is the longest active streak in the Big Ten.
Alvarez also spent time at Camp Randall as an assistant for Iowa coach Hayden Fry.
“I thought it was a good atmosphere back then (1979-87),” said Alvarez, who never lost to the Badgers (7-0-1). “The fans were excited about football and Dave McClain had some pretty good teams.”
Alvarez kept an eye on Wisconsin after leaving Iowa for Notre Dame, especially when the top job opened in 1989.
At his introductory news conference, Alvarez was asked about poor support for Badgers football and all the empty seats at Camp Randall.
Alvarez admits now that he was pretty cocky then.
When a question on the fans came up, Alvarez replied, “People want good football at Wisconsin. And people have to be patient. They have to understand things aren’t going to change overnight.
“But let me say this,” Alvarez declared, “they better get season tickets right now, because before long they won’t be able to.”
It turns out Alvarez knew what he was talking about.