INDIANAPOLIS — What does it say about the University of Wisconsin football team that it’s had a stake in four of the past five Big Ten Conference crowns?
UW claimed three straight championships from 2010 to ’12 and reached the title matchup for the third time since 2011 when it faced Ohio State on Saturday night at Lucas Oil Stadium.
The trend has made some Badgers fans wonder if Big Ten championships are now the rule, rather than the exception.
UW athletic director Barry Alvarez was asked about that perception — and his expectations — going forward.
“I realize how hard it is to win,” he said, noting his Hall of Fame stint as coach of the Badgers from 1990 to 2005. “I expect us to be competitive every year.”
Alvarez led UW to Big Ten titles in 1993, ’98 and ’99 and his hand-picked successor, Bret Bielema, matched that in 2010, ’11 and ‘12.
Second-year coach Gary Andersen, who took over when Bielema left for Arkansas, was seeking his first championship against the Buckeyes, but was denied in resounding fashion 59-0.
Two years after trouncing Nebraska 70-31 in the title game, the Badgers got a taste of that humble pie.
“I don’t take winning for granted,” Alvarez said. “It’s very difficult to win and to continue to play at this high level. So for me to sit here and say this is my expectation to do this every year, that’d be foolish.
“I’d like to compete for it every year. I’d like to think that every year we go in that our program’s in good enough shape that if everything falls into place that we’ll have a chance to compete for it.”
All four so-called “brand” schools in the Big Ten have hired new coaches in the past three years. Ohio State brought in Urban Meyer in 2012 and James Franklin is in his first season at Penn State.
Meanwhile, Nebraska just hired Mike Riley away from Oregon State to replace the fired Bo Pelini and Michigan is looking to replace the fired Brady Hoke.
“We need Penn State, we need Michigan (and) we need Nebraska to be good,” Alvarez said. “Our league needs that. Those are our brand schools and they need to be good for us to be an elite league.
“I want our league strong. I don’t want it weak. Some would say, ‘Well, I’d like to see those guys stay down. It gives us a better chance to win.’
“I don’t think that way. I want to play in an elite league,” Alvarez said.