Wisconsin Athletic Director Barry Alvarez: “To Win, You Don’t Have to do Things Illegally”

June 2, 2011 – 10:50 am by Eric Schmoldt

With recent NCAA violations committed by USC and Ohio State and many more investigations into other programs, it’s becoming increasingly harder to believe that teams can compete at an elite level without cheating. Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez wants to make it clear that not everyone is cheating.

“To win, you don’t have to do things illegally. … Everyone is not breaking NCAA rules,” Alvarez says in the following interview. It’s one of many interesting responses concerning the many topics going through the brains of athletic directors all around the country.

Barry Alvarez joined WSSP in Milwaukee with The Big Show to discuss the firing of Jim Tressel, trying to keep an eye on what athletes are doing, the shoe scandal during his time as Wisconsin coach, proposals to pay players on top of their scholarships, what the struggles of Ohio State and Michigan mean for the Big Ten, why it’s possible to run a clean program and what he’d say to fans who are jaded by all the NCAA violations swirling about.

On how the Ohio State athletic department handled the firing of Jim Tressel:

“I’m not on top of it. I know probably what you know … what’s been reported. I think the fact that Jim reported that he made a mistake, that he was in err of not being truthful to the NCAA led to a lot of this. And it’s quite obvious that it’s not over. The investigation isn’t over and there may be some other issues out there. I think it’s a sad day for college football when you have a brand name like Ohio State and certainly a sad day for our league.”

On the need to have a legion of people trying to control and contain what student athletes are doing:

“I don’t know if it’s just the athletes of today. So many of the athletes have a third party involved. You have to deal with them. So many of them are spoiled coming in. I think the media and just the awareness because of the internet and social media and all those things just make people more aware of what’s going on. The NCAA, we continue to get more regulations and rules. Compliance offices in all the colleges have continued to grow just to keep up with all the rules. … It’s a problem that is continually magnifying.”

When Wisconsin went through a shoe scandal when he was the coach, what was that investigation like?:

“They did not come in to investigate. Our administration, I felt, didn’t do a very good job of representing us. They just basically said we were in violation and accepted a penalty without trying to build a case for really what the issue was.”

How much do athletic directors and presidents really know about their football programs and coaches?:

“I think there’s a lot of different situations. Sometimes people turn a blind eye, sometimes they don’t know. The presidents aren’t there with the coaches or the players. The athletic director should be much closer to the program and your compliance people certainly should be very close to the program as far as educating and staying on top of all your student-athletes. … You try to do the best you can of informing everyone, but my job is to keep my president informed of what is going on and making sure our program is being run in the proper way.”

On Jim Delaney’s proposal to give players an extra stipend on top of the scholarships they receive?:

“First of all, I’ve always been in favor of doing whatever you can for your athletes. I just think there are a lot of questions. I think that’s just loosely thrown out there about paying all your student-athletes. I’ve got 800 of them. Do you pay all 800? How can you afford that? You really only have a couple handfuls of teams or schools nationally that are operating in the black. … I don’t think you can do it just for the revenue-earning sports. I don’t think Title IX would allow that. … You can take a look at it.”

With Michigan and Ohio State struggling for various reasons, is that good or bad for the Big Ten?:

“Those are our brand teams. Those schools have been, historically, very good. We have another team in Nebraska joining the league that is a brand team. I think we’re a team that has continued to garner respect and continue to move up because we’ve been consistently good since the early 90s. I don’t think it’s good for our league. It might help us, but I don’t know if it’s overall good for our league or good for college athletics.”

Is it possible to run a clean, successful program today?:

“You can. You’re inadvertently going to break rules. … Every month we turn in violations, secondary violations, such as that. I think that’s what the NCAA wants to see are those schools that are diligent and really do watch what’s going on. If you don’t turn in any secondary violations, your compliance people probably aren’t doing their job. But the rules, there are so many rules and they are so complex it’s impossible not to have secondary violations. But if they continue or there are just too many of them, you’re probably not doing as good a job as you should.”

What does he say to a fan that might think that looks at Ohio State and USC and believes every program must be doing the same thing?:

“I don’t think that’s true. I think we have so many more good things than bad things happening in college athletics right now. The interest is higher than it’s ever been. … It does concern you when you have the two teams that played in the national championship in football last year under investigation and UConn in basketball went on some type of probation. … You have schools like Ohio State and Southern Cal that had their issues. … It does send up a flag and some concern to people. But I do want to make it perfectly clear to the listeners: To win, you don’t have to do things illegally. … Everyone is not breaking NCAA rules.”

Listen to Barry Alvarez on WSSP in Milwaukee here

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