Home / General / Barry Alvarez pays himself $118,000 for three weeks of temp work

Barry Alvarez pays himself $118,000 for three weeks of temp work



Barry Alvarez probably isn’t hurting for cash, seeing as he gets paid a cool million per year to be the University of Wisconsin’s athletic director, which doesn’t actually sound like that demanding of a job, but whatever.

In the first week of December UW’s football coach Bret Bielema signed a contract to coach Arkansas next year, and it was decided that he shouldn’t coach the Badgers in the Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day. So the team needed an interim head coach for the game. The normal procedure in this situation is to name one of the assistant coaches to take over the top job for the team’s bowl game, but Alvarez, who had been UW’s football coach for many years before ascending/retiring into the AD position back in 2006, decided he’d coach the team instead.

As a reward for taking on these extra duties (which consisted of overseeing ten days of practice and coming up with a game plan, which turned out to feature running a total of three different offensive plays and punting a lot) he also decided he should be paid $118,000 on top of his regular salary. In addition, he also decided he should get a $50,000 if the team won.

They didn’t.

There’s a lesson in here somewhere about the Market and Meritocracy and how much money ends up being available for rewarding management when you don’t actually have to pay your labor force . . .

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  • Bitter Scribe

    That game was great for me to watch as a Stanford fan. Alvarez sometimes didn’t look all there, especially when he delayed calling a timeout in the first half, pointlessly costing the team seconds.

    The game also reminded me why I hate Brent Musberger and Kirk Herbstreit so much. Herbstreit actually tried to walk back the shitty things he said about NIU being in the Orange Bowl. Not walk back, really—just cover his ass. It “wouldn’t surprise” him, he said during the Stanford game, if NIU was “competitive.”

    Sure, Kirk. It would be central to your point, in fact.

    • Fighting Words

      God, I’m a Cal alum and I wanted Stanford to win.

      Completely agree on the Musberger/Herbstreit hatred.

      • spencer

        Re: announcer hate ….

        Did you know that there is actually a way to make the announcers voices disappear from the telecast completely?

        I don’t know much about these things, but a friend of mine did this to enhance his football viewing enjoyment. From what I remember/understood, he has Dolby Digital, and he just dropped the center channel out of the mix.

        I’m sure there are detailed instructions on Teh Google. I was just amazed it could be done.

        • Left_Wing_Fox

          If that’s the case, it’s probably as easy as unplugging the center channel (or muting it if the receiver supports that)

        • Fighting Words

          Sorry, in advance, about the rant.

          It’s not that I want no announcers, I just want better announcers. Specifically, I just want football announcers to call the game differently. Football is a complex game and is better served with announcers who can accurately break down/explain what is going on and why a certain play works or does not. There are a lot of things going on in every play. A good football announcer should make the game more accessable for fans and casual viewers alike, and enhance the viewing experience.

          Unfortunately, we get announcers who bloviate on whatever “story” they are going on about, whatever player they are told to hype, whatever useless statistic they pull out of their behind, whatever “character issues” they can talk about, etc.

          Maybe (probably) the problem is just me. I just want the guys in the booth to just call the game without all the added hype and drama. If you watch an E soccer match, the announcers just call the game and let the drama unfold naturally (and yes, I know this is a completely different sport with a completely different flow and viewing experience). It just makes for a better viewing experience.

          • Patrick

            One thing I recommend is to mute the TV and turn on the radio broadcast. Because they have to be more descriptive you’ll get more play-related commentary.

        • I am so glad that I am not alone on being annoyed on Musberger and Hebstreit! My roommate never understands where I am coming from and arguing because of the games is becoming a hobby.

  • commie atheist

    Thank you, Stanford, for saving Wisconsin that $50,000.

  • cpinva

    i assume, after this loss, mr. alvarez will make the tough decision, as AD, and fire himself, as the football coach. then he’ll give himself a $75k bonus, for saving the university $50k, by making it an incentive payment, for himself as temp coach.

    as i read this again, it almost kind of makes sense, which tells you just how stupid it actually is. that i could even come up with something this obviously moronic scares me.

    • RedSquareBear

      Have you ever considered a career in the high profile field of executive compensation management?

      It’s a man’s life in the Human Resources Department!

      Would you like to know more?

      • cpinva

        can i do that,

        Have you ever considered a career in the high profile field of executive compensation management?

        between my highly lucrative stints of stuffing envelopes at home?

  • Mike D.

    I could be wrong, but I would think that it’s necessary to pay the person who ends up doing the work, and whatever the standard rate for doing this work at this kind of program seems like a reasonable amount to pay. I assure you it was not about the compensation for Barry.

    Wisconsin resident here.

    • charlie

      I think the point is that the players are the unpaid employees. that the AD had the chutzpah to collect a check covering for a missing lower level employee in the management ranks is what is so absurd. I managed to work my way through varying corporate management jobs in the private sector and never noticed this type of abuse there.

      • Mike D.

        Well if that’s the point, then this particular wrinkle really has no independent significance. I don’t really don’t know anything about the world of corporate management, but the coaching of this team for this game wasn’t going to be done for free. Barry Alvarez had more than his usual slate of duties to perform as AD through the period when the team had to be coached. From the perspective of the people who pay him to help Wisconsin athletic programs win games and titles, the question, it seems to me, is whether he should have acceded to the request from the players that he coach the team for the game, given those other duties (i.e., finding the next head coach). I don’t think there’s much question about whether whoever did should be paid the going rate for it.

        • Paul Campos

          There’s no “going rate” for coaching a bowl game. It’s not as if an assistant would have been paid extra if he had handled the head coaching job for the game.

          • Rob

            Actually pretty sure they do get a salary bump to be acting head coach.

            • Mike D.

              *Head coaches* get the bowl bump. That’s how their contracts are structured. You’re compensated to coach games beyond the 12 that are in the base contract – this includes league championship games and bowls. Any assistant who did this surely would have gotten some considerable fraction of what was in Bielema’s contract for coaching the bowl game (and then again the bonus for winning it). It’s not clear why Alvarez shouldn’t have as well. One can argue he shouldn’t have taken it (though it’s not clear to me that he was in a position to do this – in Wisconsin during the days after Bielema left and the team requested that Barry coach, the need to settle a compensation package was suggested in the reporting as something of a necessary administrative detail, possibly even legally prescribed – i.e. the state couldn’t under contract accept this work pro bono, even from its AD. Not saying that was the case, but that was kind of the tenor of the reporting.), but that’s something far apart from it being facially absurd that he received compensation apart form his salary as AD for coaching this game.

              Colleges pay ADs to administer athletic departments; they pay coaches to coach games. ADs are not paid to coach games. If they are hired to coach for a portion of a season, they need to be paid as coaches. It’s entirely right to question whether he should have taken on this job while remaining acting AD, but whoever coached this game was going to be compensated for it at something in the neighborhood of the amount that other programs like it pay football coaches to coach in bowl games over and above their regular season schedules.

        • RepubAnon

          It seems odd to pay the athletic director extra to fill-in for an absent employee. When I go on vacation, my boss does not get paid extra to do my work while I’m gone. In fact, I’ve never heard of anyone getting paid extra because they had to fill in for someone.

          But then, I don’t work in college athletics.

          • Pestilence

            Nor have I

            But … your boss does your work when you’re on vacation? Man, I could do with a boss like that.

        • anonymous

          So he should be paid his regular salary for not doing “more than his usual slate of duties to perform as AD” and on top of that get to double-dip for playing coach again? It seems kind of contrary to his responsibility as AD to look out for the bottom line of the department.

      • LosGatosCA

        Count yourself lucky on not having encountered the abuse. I’ve seen bonuses for CEO’s merging their companies claiming they were due the M&A consultant costs they avoided, just because – like it’s not their job to save the company money.

    • BigHank53

      It’s a post-season bowl game. It’s going to make almost no difference to the future of next year’s team, unless some unlucky freshman gets injured, and why were you starting them in a bowl game anyway?

      If your assistant coaching staff can’t get your team through a single game on their own, they should all be sacked for general uselessness.

      Mr. Alvarez saw an opportunity to stick a straw into the cesspool of money that is NCAA football and suck $118k out of it. How long would it take you to earn $118k?

      It’s fine by me if you want to continue to defend Mr. Alvarez. Just remember that $118k the next time some hypocrite talks about amateurism or honor or ethics or some other bullshit about college football.

      • Kurzleg

        The players asked Alvarez to coach them at the Rose Bowl. It was by their request.

      • MIke D.

        The assistant coaching staff was for the most part occupied with finding their next paydays at other universities just like the regular season head coach who bailed on the program for this game was. Coaching acumen and attention was rushing out of the program like water rushes out of an aquarium that’s just had a freeweight bar put through its front plate near the base. The team needed someone to be the head coach of for this game.

    • Warren Terra

      Your argument might perhaps make sense had he gone on unpaid leave from his job as Athletics Director for those three weeks, saving the school nearly half his coach’s salary.

      Also, over $100k for three weeks? If that’s an accurate pro-rating of the actual head coach’s salary, they’re even more offensively and bloatedly overpaid than I’d thought.

      • tonycpsu

        Actually it’s less. Bielema was getting $2.6M/yr, which works out to around $210k per week.


        • Warren Terra

          about $210K per game, not per week. I assume they’re employed year-round, and I know they train the teams in the spring and summer.

          • tonycpsu

            Your pedantry is certainly going to help you in next week’s AP Top 25 Commenters poll!

        • Colin Day

          2.6 million per year is $50,000 per week, or $150,000 for three weeks.

          • tonycpsu

            $2.6M was Bielema’s salary, not Alvarez’s.

            • Colin Day

              I knew that. I was pointing out that Alvarez worked for less than Bielema.

    • Mpowell

      That sum might be appropriate as an incentive bonus for getting to he game. What Alvarez delivered was worth less than some volunteers could have offered

      • Kurzleg

        Because they lost?

    • anonymous

      Why would it be necessary to pay him more? He’s already getting a check from the University.

  • coming up with a game plan, which turned out to feature running a total of three different offensive plays and punting a lot

    Now, now, the game plan itself didn’t say, “Audition punter for NFL seven times.” It’s just that when Meyer read it, he spent all of last week working on hang time and angling to put the ball out at the opponent’s fifteen.

  • Larry

    I find the pay and all involved disgusting but, to be fair, Alvarez was asked by the players to coach them in the bowl game.

    • BigHank53

      And what kind of example would he set for those lads if he did it for free, right?

      • MIke D.

        I’m not sure the university could have someone coach the game for free, that’s the whole point. The reporting suggested that they had to work out a compensation package for legal or near-legal procedural reasons relating to state/university employment rules.

        • SamR

          And those rules include “pay a guy at least 100k for 3 weeks of part-time temp work”?

  • tonycpsu
    • ploeg

      Gov. Corbett needs to find a lawyer that he can pay $118,000 to advise him to keep his big trap shut. Far from being “worse than the death penalty” as originally advertised, the NCAA sanctions will allow the Penn State football program to return to the fold stronger than ever after only a few years. If we want to be looking at a PSU death penalty for real, or if we want to look closer at former Atty. Gen. Corbett’s conduct during this whole episode, go ahead.

      • witless chum

        What a shitbag.

      • drkrick

        Deflecting that last part seems to be the point. A newly elected Democratic AG just took office promising to look into why the Sandusky investigation was bottled up in Corbett’s DOJ for three years.

  • Todd

    So, this money is apparently coming out of a $1 Million dollar buyout of Bielema’s contract to be paid by the University of Arkansas.

    And while he is coming out ahead to the tune of $118K, he is also apparently taking a 90% pay cut in his Athletic Director salary this month as well.


    • witless chum

      That’s much less crazy, then. It’s weird that they felt the need to go through all this, though, if they aren’t really giving Alvarez much extra money.

    • Warren Terra

      Arguably, this puts a completely different complexion on things.

      If we take their compensation to be salary and pro-rate it (unlikely, as it usually includes housing and fancy benefits that don’t pro-rate well), we get:

      Outgoing Football Head Coach: $2.6M/year (per tonycpsu’s comment above), or $50,000 a week.

      Reduction in Athletic Director’s pay for these three weeks: 90% of $1M per year (per the post); call it $18,000 per week.

      Special Acting Head Coach pay to the Athletic Director: $39,000 per week.

      Note the per-week pay of the acting coach is less than they would have paid the full-time coach, and you can cut it almost in half because he wasn’t taking most of his Athletic Director pay. He was taking well under half of what the departed head coach got per week, and it’s likely a temporarily promoted assistant coach would have gotten at least as much in extra pay, especially if their pay was briefly bumped up to that of their departed boss.

      I assume Paul is right that the actual coaching job he did was sub-par, and I am persistently disgusted by most aspects of professional collegiate sports, including the insane sums paid to head coaches and athletic directors. But running the numbers here, at least when you use certain simplifying assumptions, it doesn’t look like the Athletic Director was really being incredibly wasteful of the school’s money (that is, compared to baseline, not compared to sanity), and it doesn’t look like he was being incredibly grasping.

      • witless chum

        I don’t know as Alvarez did anything too objectionable as far as his game day coaching. The timeout thing is a mistake, but it seems like he thought Stanford had gotten the first down, making the game over.

        Curt Phillips looked pretty limited as a QB. I guess you can fault Alvarez for not going to Joel Stave, who looked better earlier in the season, but Phillips had played well enough/gotten lucky enough to keep the game close and I can see thinking you can grind out a win in a game like that. It’s playing conservative, but he won three Rose Bowls and brought the Badger football program to new heights playing conservative.

        The other thing Paul doesn’t mention with this is almost the entire Wisconsin staff was taking jobs elsewhere, including both the coordinators who are usually the guys you go to as interim head coach. So trying to get one of them to do a good job on bowl prep as interim head coach might have been an issue. Or at least a reasonable concern.

        But in light of Todd’s link, he needs to edit the main post because this part…

        he also decided he should be paid $118,000 on top of his regular salary. In addition, he also decided he should get a $50,000 if the team won.

        …seems to be factually wrong.

  • LosGatosCA

    I’m getting a little tired of the constant harping that the NCAA athletes are not paid properly. My understanding is that the athletes don’t even have to pay taxes on their all expense paid vacation to Pasadena and that they will receive a 300% bonus of base pay for participating in earning the university approximately $22M per team. Actually, I think the bonus rate may even be 500%, or 5000%. In any case, it’s as generous as the free labor market allows.

    As for Barry Alvaraez, he had to show up for practice everyday in Pasadena, instead of just sleeping in and smiling a lot during media events. The preparation alone for scripting those football coach cliches alone justified the entire extra-compensation package. “I just let the coaches coach.” “The team knows what to do.” “It all came back as soon as I stepped onto the sideline.” He’s a generous man for not billing the university for Associate SID salary expense for thinking of those lines.

    • Warren Terra

      If they were getting an education, I might agree with you that the team is getting compensated. But it is at the very least my prejudice – and I have anecdotes to back this up, albeit I don’t have actual data – that a preponderance of the elite collegiate athletes (the starters, the ones with scholarships and who get cushy “jobs” from boosters over the summer) don’t get anything like a decent education – in part because College Football is a demanding full-time job, on the field by 6AM, a break for whatever classes they’re supposedly taking, often assisted, and then all afternoon working out and being coached. The impression I got is that from people who knew folks doing one or the other was that it would have been easier, and for most more lucrative, to juggle a full-time job with a college courseload – and the incentives to succeed academically would have been clearer.

      Of course, my perspective dates to over a decade ago, when tuition at a first-tier state university was pretty damn cheap. Maybe the comparison to someone working a job is now quite different.

      PS I actually live in Pasadena, and while it’s a perfectly nice place, and warmer than Madison, I don’t think a week here in January is much of a lucrative, ritzy vacation, even if it weren’t for the training regime etcetera.

      • witless chum

        Yeah, this is where the feeling squicky about college athletics turns to worse. If they’re getting a college education, or at least a degree, in return for five years of physically grueling labor, that’s at least something.

        When the players are not even getting a fair chance of getting that is when it’s a lot worse.

  • e.a.foster

    and the players don’t get paid???? Something a tad wierd at American Universities. I have figured out though how to pay for more cops & firefighters,nurses, teacher. Just cut the football dept.’s budget in half. Problems solved. As a matter of fact it might be a good way to solve the American federal deficiet problem. Just get the money from the football dept’s of American universities. Well its not like it would be a tax increase, just a way of getting the money to be useful.

  • Monday Night Frotteur

    A little surprised you don’t get more outraged at the exploitation of revenue athletes. Watching a game live and seeing all the injuries juxtaposed against the ads and the shithead “Job Creator” Athletic Directors really pisses me off to the point where I’ve stopped going this year.

  • Sebastian H

    How is this an indictment of crony corporatism? Am I confused or isn’t this particular university system a public system? If we have to label it with broad brush isn’t it closer to a case of public capture or maybe even straight up public sphere corruption?

  • ChrisTS

    What does David Levy have to say about athletic staff compensation?

    Oh, nothing?

  • Major Kong

    I’m sure Barry Alvarez has a really tough job. I mean, he could get a pretty nasty paper cut or something.

    • cpinva

      you laugh. paper cuts can be fatal. get a staph infection, next thing you know, you’ve got a flesh-eating virus going. a week later, your entire arm is gone, and no one will come near you. a week after that, they’re planting you in the ground. “if only he’d been more careful.” they’ll say.

      i always wear leather work gloves, when handling paper. you just can’t be too safe.

  • Rob Deters

    Badger alum here…one thing that was a little different about this situation is that every single one of the Badgers assistant coaches is also leaving this year, a number of them with Bielema and others to many different schools. In total, 8 of the assistant coaches are leaving after this season. Although all the ones leaving were on hand for the game, it was a very strange situation for Wisconsin to find itself in.

    So yeah, did he get paid a lot? Sure. But this wasn’t a run of the mill coaching change.

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