All too often in their Badgers’ playing days, Ron Dayne was the one being asked the questions and made sure to thank the work of his offensive linemen.
The roles were reversed Wednesday when Chris McIntosh, a former All-American offensive lineman for the University of Wisconsin, was named the next athletic director and Dayne was in the Kohl Center audience applauding his former teammate.
“It’s amazing, man. I don’t even know what to say about it, it’s just amazing. … It’s just like your best friend is just getting (named) the president of the world,” Dayne said.
“My best friend is the president. For me, it’s almost like somebody being the president. I’ll never know what it feels like if my best friend was going to be the president, but I know how I feel when one of my best friends is becoming the AD.”
Among the nearly 100 people gathered to see McIntosh announced as the Badger’s athletic director were some of McIntosh’s former teammates such as Dayne and fullback Cecil Martin. Dayne and McIntosh were part of back-to-back Rose Bowl champions for the Badgers in 1999 and 2000, while Martin graduated after the 1999 win. McIntosh was a captain of both squads.
His teammates’ presence carried extra weight for McIntosh, who will become the 11th athletic director at UW when he replaces Barry Alvarez on July 1.
“There are teammates of mine here now, 20-plus years removed, from all walks of life, from all experiences, from coast to coast,” McIntosh said. “These are people that shared a sacrifice together in the locker room, and rallied around a common goal. And we were able to put aside any differences that we may have brought here. And I think that’s really one of the most beautiful and magical things about athletics, certainly about a locker room. It brings together people from all walks of life, all backgrounds, and I’m just honored to be here today.”
Throughout the afternoon, McIntosh referred to the leadership skills he learned on the football field being ingrained in his work as an administrator. His former teammates said that leadership came in a number of forms.
McIntosh could be assertive when he needed to be.
“I remember we played the Outback Bowl and we lost to Georgia (after the 1997 season), and he was like, ‘F-that. I didn’t come to Wisconsin (to lose) and be such and such. We’re going to the Rose Bowl,’” Dayne said. “And the next couple of years, we went to the Rose Bowl, back to back. So he knows (what it takes), that’s what I’m saying. He’s a leader and he’s going to focus and do what he has to do for the university.”
McIntosh’s work ethic in the weight room and on the field gave him even more influence among his teammates, said Ross Kolodziej, who was also on the Rose Bowl-winning teams.
“Day to day, when you see somebody just attack relentlessly and compete at such a level and put so much detail into their work … it’s that standard,” Kolodziej said. “It gives him the credibility to demand that standard of others.
“He was always first in line to accept responsibility, he never shied away from it. Everybody wants to own the good things; he has never shied away from owning any of the shortcomings or failures as a group, as a team or as a person. So I think you appreciate that as well. (Leaders) don’t want to pass the buck, right?”
Kolodziej has worked at UW since 2015, serving first as the strength and conditioning coach before assuming defensive line coaching duties this offseason. He’s seen McIntosh take on more responsibilities in the athletic department and keep his cool through stressful situations throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
He believes McIntosh will stay true to who he is and not get wrapped up in trying to mimic Alvarez.
“He’s himself … to try and replicate Barry, you know it would be impossible,” Kolodziej said.
“I think as it relates to the leadership and the strength of your athletic department, someone having ties to the trenches — regardless of sport — but somebody that’s really put their blood, sweat and tears into the foundation of a program, and I can’t think of a better guy than Mac that has done it. He’s still connected to the student-athletes and still connected and recognizes that that’s what this is all about in the end. I think there’s a lot of ... everybody’s talking about the expectations and the shoes to fill with coach Alvarez, and there’s no question (that’s real), but I don’t think you could pick a better guy to transition into the future than Mac.”
The microphone had to be adjusted before the man of the hour spoke to the crowd Wednesday at the Kohl Center.
Patrick Herb — UW’s director of brand strategy and the emcee of the event — made a quip that Badgers Athletics had entered a taller era.
McIntosh is still 6-foot-6, but isn’t nearly his playing weight of 310 pounds anymore. Even Big Ten Conference commissioner Kevin Warren made reference to the Badgers being in good hands with McIntosh taking over for Alvarez.
“One thing that struck me from the first time that I met Chris a couple of years ago, and I shook his hands — his massive, strong hands,” Warren said. “This is a man who’s passionate, who has heart, who has empathy, who takes life seriously. I’m confident and I’m excited that this program will continually grow and thrive in the hands of your new athletic director, Chris McIntosh.”
Dayne recounted memories of breaking the huddle and McIntosh telling him to follow his block regardless of which way the play was designed to go.
As he did then, Dayne’s happy to follow McIntosh again as the latter takes on this new challenge.
“I’m super excited about him having this opportunity,” Dayne said. “And I think he’ll be really good at it because he’s a fighter.”