It’s not often a small northern Iowa community gets a shoutout during a major NCAA Division I school’s press conference. But even though it was brief, Mason City was on the mind of retiring University of Wisconsin-Madison Director of Athletics Barry Alvarez during his retirement press conference earlier this week.
A reporter asked Alvarez if he’d known in the late 1970’s – when he was coaching the Mohawks – that he’d have all the success he did at Wisconsin what he would say, and Alvarez responded, “I know.” He continued by laughing and saying, “I’m serious. I can remember one of my players said, ‘coach, it won’t be long; you’ll be a head coach in a college someplace’.
The former Badgers coach started his coaching career at Lexington High School in Lexington, Nebraska, in 1971, following his playing career at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Alvarez then came to Mason City, Iowa, where he stayed for only three seasons but guided the Mohawks to a Class 4A state championship in 1978. Mason City defeated Dubuque Hempstead 15-13 in the title game. Alvarez’s Mohawks defeated future 4A football powerhouse West Des Moines Valley in the first round and rival Fort Dodge in the semifinals to reach the championship game. The offense was feared led by all-state quarterback Mark McManigal and running back Dave Killpack.
Just as the famous cliche quote says, ‘never forget where you came from,’ that 1978 season will always be a mark on Alvarez’s resume, and not surprising the topic came up. What is surprising is what Alvarez said next:
Alvarez won all three Rose Bowls he coached in 1994, 1999, and 2000, and national championships as the AD. He took over as the Badges coach in 1990 following assistant jobs at both the University of Iowa – where he went following his time in Mason City – and Notre Dame. He left coaching in 2005 and became Wisconsin’s top athletic administrator. He would later return as the interim head coach of the Badgers in 2012 and 2014.
Alvarez also noted in the press conference that he’d initially planned to retire in January but felt with the global pandemic, he’d help navigate the struggles athletic directors around the country were facing.
Alvarez was inducted to the College Football Hall of Fame as a coach in 2010 and was on the inaugural College Football Playoff selection committee in 2014.
(Audio courtesy of the University of Wisconsin-Madison)