A week ago, Bret Bielema shocked the state of Wisconsin, the Big Ten and all of college football by bolting Madison to do something called "Woo Pig Sooie" on a stage with his wife.
Days later, the almighty Barry Alvarez descended from on high to take over the reigns of Bielema's Rose Bowl-bound Badgers at the behest of the team captains. Alvarez was clear, that this was going to be a one-game return. He said he was not going to leave the athletic director's office and would find a man with head coaching experience to replace Bielema.
That sounds nice and all, but which Mid-American Conference head coach is left to take?
Seriously. The Big Ten has a big problem when it comes to its football programs and this year was a great indication of that. The only truly special program was in Columbus, Ohio at Ohio State University. And there was one reason for that – Urban Meyer.
Of all the coaching hires made in the Big Ten in recent history, Meyer's hiring was the only "big time" move made by this supposed "big time" conference.
Look around. Outside of Meyer, where are the earth-shattering hires? Where are the true program changers? Darrell Hazell from Kent State? Jerry Kill from Northern Illinois University? Brady Hoke from San Diego State?
Now, I have to give credit to Nebraska in hiring a top Southeastern Conference assistant in Bo Pelini (LSU defensive coordinator) and Indiana for doing the same with former Oklahoma (Big 12) offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson, but again – those are assistants getting their first gig in the Big Ten.
This "power conference" should be ripping the head coaches from those programs – not their assistants.
Folks down south are not only trumpeting the arrival of a coach who led his program to three straight Rose Bowls, but they're thumbing their nose at the Big Ten because yet again they woo away another top man.
Nick Saban and Steve Spurrier were NFL head coaches that came to the conference. Kevin Sumlin, Les Miles and Butch Jones were head coaches that left their programs like Bielema. True, not everyone in conference went that route – but are you going to argue with hiring the top coordinators at Florida State, Texas or Florida.
But the SEC isn't the only one doing things differently than the Big Ten. The Pac-12 has gone after recent head coaches at Michigan, Pittsburgh, Tennessee and Texas Tech, along with a former NFL head coach and assistant.
The Big 12 tends to hire "hot" coordinators or promote from within, but is it a bad thing when you move up an Auburn defensive coordinator, Florida defensive coordinator, former Notre Dame head coach? No. It's definitely different than promoting an assistant in-house at Northwestern or Rutgers.
If you're going to play Big Boy football, you've got to go all the way with it. Facilities across the Big Ten need to be upgraded. Head coaches need to be paid. And, as Badgers fans discovered in the Bielema defection, assistant coaches need to be paid.
The safety net of the BCS and the Rose Bowl's affinity for tradition is beginning to loosen. In two years, a four-team playoff will supplant the current format. There is no guarantee the Big Ten champion will be among the top four teams in that ranking. Bielema saw this.
Barry Alvarez and Wisconsin are in a unique position. They can follow Ohio State's lead here and hire a big-time, big-program coach to take over. Money does indeed make the world go 'round – and in order for the Badgers world to continue to include the Rose Bowl and those big paydays – that money needs to flow to such a coach.
Make it so that Mike Gundy (Oklahoma State), Gary Patterson (TCU), Mike Riley (Oregon State), Chris Peterson (Boise State) and heck, even a Mark Richt (Georgia) want to come here.
Yes, the state is broke, and Wisconsin is a state university. But that's not where this money comes from. Nearly every state's budget is busted. Nearly every Division I university is having budget problems. This is the time for those private boosters to write even bigger checks. It's time for the Big Ten to become a big player.
Jim Owczarski is an award-winning sports journalist and comes to Milwaukee by way of the Chicago Sun-Times Media Network.
A three-year Wisconsin resident who has considered Milwaukee a second home for the better part of seven years, he brings to the market experience covering nearly all major and college sports.
To this point in his career, he has been awarded six national Associated Press Sports Editors awards for investigative reporting, feature writing, breaking news and projects. He is also a four-time nominee for the prestigious Peter J. Lisagor Awards for Exemplary Journalism, presented by the Chicago Headline Club, and is a two-time winner for Best Sports Story. He has also won numerous other Illinois Press Association, Illinois Associated Press and Northern Illinois Newspaper Association awards.
Jim's career started in earnest as a North Central College (Naperville, Ill.) senior in 2002 when he received a Richter Fellowship to cover the Chicago White Sox in spring training. He was hired by the Naperville Sun in 2003 and moved on to the Aurora Beacon News in 2007 before joining OnMilwaukee.com.
In that time, he has covered the events, news and personalities that make up the PGA Tour, LPGA Tour, Major League Baseball, the National Football League, the National Hockey League, NCAA football, baseball and men's and women's basketball as well as boxing, mixed martial arts and various U.S. Olympic teams.
Golf aficionados who venture into Illinois have also read Jim in GOLF Chicago Magazine as well as the Chicago District Golfer and Illinois Golfer magazines.