MADISON, Wis. — When Wisconsin linebacker Mike Taylor was a kid, he used to watch the Badgers and dream of playing for Barry Alvarez.
He's finally getting his wish.
The Badgers are going retro for the Rose Bowl, talking Alvarez — their former football coach-turned athletic director — into returning to the sidelines on New Year's Day against Stanford after Bret Bielema bolted for Arkansas this week.
"It's the best thing that could happen," Taylor said Thursday after Alvarez's return was announced. "He's familiar with what we do and he built this program. That's why kids like me come here."
But this is a one-night-only gig, Alvarez insisted. He's already looking for a replacement for Bret Bielema, and plans to begin interviewing candidates next week.
"No one likes change, but you can grow through change and there's opportunity through change," Alvarez said. "I want the seniors to go out the right way, and I want the young players to understand that I will put a coach in place that they'll be pleased with."
It won't, however, be Paul Chryst.
The first-year Pitt coach was considered the favorite to replace Bielema, a former Badgers offensive coordinator who is from the area, has many ties here and remains a popular figure at Wisconsin. Alvarez pulled some strings to help get Chryst the Panthers job last year, and said it wouldn't be "appropriate" for him to hire Chryst back such a short time later.
Four years after taking over in 1990, Alvarez led the Badgers to a 10-1-1 record, a No. 4 ranking and the 1994 Rose Bowl. Wisconsin has had only two losing seasons since then.