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UW-Madison's AD Barry Alvarez announces he's retiring

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Posted at 8:13 PM, Apr 06, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-06 21:13:53-04

MADISON, Wis (NBC 26) -- Most Badger fans are just a generation removed from an era when UW Madison was not known for being a powerhouse in sports.

"My dad said, you have no idea how lucky you are to be watching these teams," says Joe Vanden Avond.

Vanden Avond, is the current President of the Brown County Wisconsin Alumni Association and he attended UW from 2009 to 2013. He says he doesn't remember a time when the Badgers weren't serious contenders in a basketball or football game but does admit hearing about the dark days in Madison sports before athletic director Barry Alvarez took the reins.

"I guess a lot of it was just taken for granted by people who are my age because we've never known anything else."

Arriving in 1990 as a football coach, Alvarez took the Badgers from one of the weakest programs in the Big Ten to one of the most dominant. In 2004, Alverez became the university's athletic director, reshaping their college sports programs.

"Coach Alvarez, getting the football program, really led to the basketball program rolling, lead to the volleyball program rolling, lead to the hockey programs rolling," says Brain Butch a former Badger basketball player.

Butch played Badger basketball from 2004 to 2008. He was one of the nation's top recruits when he committed to the Badgers. And while the Appleton native could have gone anywhere in the country, he stayed in the badger state.

"You grew this to where it needed to be at. Where every kid in the state of Wisconsin wants to be a Badger," says Butch describing Alvarez's influence on student-athletes.

Coach Alvarez was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2010 and has helped 14 different Badger teams win conference titles under his leadership. And today, as he nears retirement, Badgers' alumni are remembering the difference he made.

"It's been a really fun stretch to be a Badger fan and we're as lucky as we are because of him," adds Vanden Avond.

"Coach has always been great to me and the relationship I've had with coach has been fantastic. But he was a better man, more than a coach, and that's saying a lot."