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In Sports Commentary

The notion that Bret Bielema's 0-2 record in Pasadena is reason enough for his ouster is ludicrous.

A change in Madison? Um, no.




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This one is going to sting for a while.

Not that last year's Wisconsin loss in the Rose Bowl was easy to accept, after all, few Badgers fans believe the better team won. However, this time around there is a feeling of letting your opponent off the ropes when you had them right where you wanted them. To be sure, Oregon is a fantastically talented team on offense, as is Wisconsin. But the stinger that will set in on the long plane ride home is that it was there for the taking.

Compounding matters for the Badgers and their fans is that this may have been the most balanced an offensive team Wisconsin ever had. With graduation (Russell Wilson, Patrick Butrym, Bradie Ewing, Josh Oglesby), possible early entry to the NFL (Montee Ball), and coaching defections (Paul Chryst and Bob Bostad, for now) the wait to return to Pasadena could be a longer one than anyone is prepared for.

In the 1990s we all got spoiled. After Barry Alvarez resurrected the moribund Wisconsin football program (and thus the entire athletic department), a trip to Pasadena became almost blasé. Of course, under Alvarez, the Badgers were 3-0 in the Granddaddy of them all; Alvarez and Heisman Trophy winner Ron Dayne even became members of the Rose Bowl Hall of Fame for their efforts.

But after 2000, Wisconsin hit a dry spell. Fans grew discontented after Dayne and other future NFL players Chris Chambers, Jamar Fletcher, Lee Evans, Mark Tauscher, Chris McIntosh, Casey Rabach and others left Madison and Alvarez couldn't keep up the pace he had set. Just two years after becoming the only Big Ten coach to win back-to-back Rose Bowls, the Badgers slumped to 5-7, missing the postseason altogether.

Even having "California Dreamin'" fresh in the collective memory back home did not stop the natives from getting restless.

Alvarez, also a member of the College Football Hall of Fame, concluded his coaching career with appearances in the Alamo, Music City, Outback and Capitol One Bowls. Not exactly heady stuff for someone who had raised the bar higher than any Wisconsin coach had before him.

In 2006, Bret Bielema took over and continued the tradition of Florida bowl games. Mind you, this was a tradition no one really wanted to be a part of. In successive years, Bielema led his team to the Capitol One, Outback and Champs Sports (twice) Bowls.

After six straight years of Central Florida bowl games (the Outback Bowl is played at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa; the Outback and Champs Sports Bowls are both played at the Florida Citrus Bowl Stadium in Orlando), Badgers fans grew anxious, even disturbed, at the lack of progress by the one-time laughing stock of college football.

Remember, before the 1993 season, the last time Wisconsin went to any bowl game was the three-year (out of four seasons) run between 1981-84 during which the Badgers went to such exotic destinations as the Garden State Bowl in New Jersey, the Independence Bowl in Shreveport, and the Hall of Fame Bowl in Memphis.

Prior to that stretch, there had been almost 20 years between postseason appearances. Before Barry ("BB" in Wisconsin terms), the Badgers had exactly one bowl game win (the 1982 Independence Bowl).

In other words, we aren't talking about a whole lot of historical success here. Alabama, Michigan, Ohio State, USC and Notre Dame this ain't.

My point in this history lesson is more a word of caution than anything else. Yes, Monday's Rose Bowl loss was disheartening, as was last year's. Most certainly there were opportunities that were missed and plays anyone wearing red and white would love to have back. Unfortunately it just wasn't meant to be. Wisconsin got beat by a faster, better, more opportunistic battle-tested program. Unlike last year's loss to TCU, most Wisconsin fans have to at least recognize that the better team won this time around.

So where do the Badgers go from here?

Social media being what it is; immediate, raw and vitriolic, some fans were calling for Bielema's ouster in the wake of the final gun.

"He can't win the big one!" according to one fan.

"The Badgers could have won if he hadn't used that timeout early in the half!" screamed another.

The fact of the matter is this: Bret Bielema is 60-19 in his career as Wisconsin's head coach. Moreover, Barry Alvarez has absolutely no intention of dismissing his hand-picked successor. And if you think you can influence the Wisconsin athletic director with your protests either via talk radio, internet postings, or good ole-fashioned letters to the editor, you obviously do not know the man on any level whatsoever.

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Talkbacks

Myke | Jan. 4, 2012 at 10:45 p.m. (report)

@rabid652. Very well stated !

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olderwiser | Jan. 3, 2012 at 1:51 p.m. (report)

BB's arrogance just annoys me. Stay or go...I won't care about him or miss him. So sorry for the guys on the team though. Thanks for playing your hearts out.

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TosaJim | Jan. 3, 2012 at 1:47 p.m. (report)

The defense needs a little work too...great linebackers, but the defensive line did not do the job. Let's get some more big Wisconsin farm boys suited up and Go Badgers!!!!

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rabid652 | Jan. 3, 2012 at 11:24 a.m. (report)

Getting to the Rose Bowl two years in a row should certainly not be overlooked but Brett's mismanagement of the clock is bordering on ridiculous. His misuse of timeouts likely cost UW the Michigan St. game and cost his team at least one or two shots to the endzone yesterday. Someone who surely earns something of a 7 figure salary should have the knowledge of what calls are reviewable and the ramafications of using your second timeout early in the 3rd quarter. At the very least, you could hire someone onto your staff who does.

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