In this blog, I’m going to talk about my thoughts regarding the Wisconsin Badgers football program based on complaints fans have talked with me about and based on complaints I’ve seen on social media regarding the program as well as the recruiting.
I truly feel like I am in a time loop. We have all heard this “we are in decline and can’t be really good anymore and need a change” rhetoric. We heard it in the 1990’s, early 2000’s, even in 2008-09 and 2012-13 and now today. Has everyone failed to learn anything?
There is no guarantee that we have an elite season any time in the immediate future. However, if there is anything the last 30 years (since Alvarez took over in 1990) has taught us is that we simply don’t have the resources to consistently be elite.
A couple shaky recruiting classes, a bad run of injuries, some tough schedules all are enough to derail a couple year stretch. The good news is that Wisconsin’s definition of “derail” is winning 8 games.
As fans want Paul Chryst fired and yearn for the Alvarez and Bielema days, we forget that UW went through these exact same stretches, and in Alvarez’s case, the teams were actually worse.
So, all of you with the fresh hot takes of “Chryst needs to be fired and the program isn’t what it used to be,” it isn’t a fresh hot take.
I have talked extensively that UW can’t change their home recruiting footprint. They can’t change weather. I suppose they could change their academic standards, but I am strongly against that.
So, I would love to hear what fans think CAN change beyond the “change something,” or “get better recruits,” or “we need more imagination.”
Regarding facilities, which we all saw Northwestern make their announcement of their new football stadium. Wisconsin continues to upgrade Camp Randall, making it more fan friendly, and increasing appeal to big money donors. They are also in the process of trying to upgrade the McClain Center, even though it isn’t exactly archaic.
Regarding coaches. Talk to NFL folk about UW development. Wisconsin continuously gets more out of their players relative to recruiting than just about any program in the country. UW is top 6 in wins despite routinely finishing in the 30’s in recruiting rankings.
Does Wisconsin pay top dollar? No, but they are keeping the guys they need to keep and I see no reason to believe the players aren’t getting coached at a top level.
Regarding scheme. Very simple. The formula for any program has to be to run a system that fits the players you get. If we run Ohio State’s system, we lose every time because they will always do it better with more talented players. Considering Ohio as a state has way more D1 recruits than the state of Wisconsin. The UW system is one of the reasons they have won as much as they have. Call it market inefficiency if you want, but they have leveraged what they can get in recruiting into a system that fits this talent.
Regarding recruiting. I talked a little bit about it earlier, but you can’t change your home state, but they have revamped the entire recruiting department. I would argue it was a year too late and they had a “dead year” (2020), but to argue they aren’t changing with the times is factually untrue.
Regarding the recruiting budget, for those of you that complain about it. I hope you realize that there is no set way to compute recruiting budgets. It is just a book-keeping thing where each school gets to claim whatever they want as recruiting. If you think they should spend more, please tell me on what. Do you know the specifics as to how Wisconsin recruiting experience differs from other schools? (I don’t think so).
Regarding the NIL spendings. I am proud of UW for attempting to follow the rules as intended and not jump in to using it as outright recruiting enticements. If this is the way they need to go, so be it, but as I have been saying, fans better start opening up their wallets.
I follow the program closer than 99% of the fans and I have yet to see a significant gap or weakness that Paul Chryst and Chris McIntosh are failing to address. If there are, let’s hear them and talk about it.
I think there are little things that I think should change such as Chryst’s approach to boosters, 4th down tendencies, etc. but those things simply don’t matter when looking at the big picture trajectory of the program.
I think it all comes down to this: Wisconsin’s program is what it is and they are always going to be subject to ebbs and flows. Unfortunately, fans see Alabama, Ohio State, Georgia and that is the new (unreachable) bar. We can do everything right and still only win 8 or 9 games. Because this simple and rather boring reality is hard for some fans to live with, we get over the top rants with zero insight or understanding of, well, pretty much anything because we can’t be Alabama.
No, the program isn’t perfect. Nobody saying the program is perfect or without needs, but the needs are largely cosmetic and are not program altering.
Ultimately, it comes down to hoping you are slightly better at evaluating 16 year old kids and figuring out what they look like in four years. And if you think it’s an easy process, go to your local high school football game and listen to all the fans who think the running back is a D1 prospect while he ends up playing at a D3 school.
In the meantime, take a breath and enjoy the rides. Enjoy the wins. Be frustrated with the losses, but realize that just because we have had 30 years of prosperity does not entitle us to a Big Ten title every other year.
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