MADISON, Wis. (AP) – Barry Alvarez eliminated all the surprise and speculation – his 16th season as Wisconsin coach will be his last.

Alvarez said Thursday he will step down after this year and focus solely on his role as the school’s athletic director, a job he took on in 2004. And he’s already picked his successor in defensive coordinator Bret Bielema.

Alvarez, 58, was hired in 1990 to turn around a program that had only five winning seasons in the 27 years before he came on board. Three seasons later, Alvarez led Wisconsin to its first Rose Bowl since 1963, one of three Rose Bowl titles.

in his tenure. Alvarez is the winningest coach in school history with a mark of 108-70-4 in 15 seasons.

He is 7-3 in bowl games.

Alvarez’s teams have been defined by a punishing ground games and a stout defenses, both keys to their three Rose Bowl wins. His squads set a Big Ten record with 10 straight seasons with a 1,000 yard rusher, including Heisman Trophy winner Ron Dayne.

Alvarez brought in Bielema last year to take over Wisconsin’s defense, which ranked in the top 10 nationally in points (15.4) and yards (291.2) allowed.

Alvarez said he first approached Bielema about taking over earlier this summer. The combination of family, the responsibilities of two jobs and his confidence in Bielema convinced him it was time for him to give up coaching.

“Bret Bielema is the right man to replace me,” Alvarez said.

Quarterback John Stocco said the Badgers will be motivated to make Alvarez’s last season memorable.

“We talk about how successful Coach Alvarez has been and what he’s done for the program,” Stocco said. “Knowing this is his last year, it’s just going to make us work harder to make sure he goes out on the right note.”

Despite Alvarez’s on-field success, the Badgers have had a series of problems off the field over the last five years. Wisconsin was slapped by the NCAA with a major rules violation under Alvarez’s watch in 2000, resulting in the suspensions of 26 football players for receiving unadvertised discounts at a shoe store. Another 21 were required to do community service for breaking NCAA rules. A series of Badger players have had run-ins with police over the last several years as well.

Bielema and Alvarez both have connections to former Iowa coach Hayden Fry.

Alvarez got his first college coaching job under Fry in 1979 before a stint at Notre Dame under Lou Holtz.

Bielema, 35, played under Fry at Iowa before serving as a graduate assistant and eventually an assistant coach on his staff. He later coached under Kirk Ferentz at Iowa and Bill Snyder at Kansas State – both of whom coached for Fry as well – before Alvarez brought him in last year.

“I was just glad to finally work for a guy that gave me the job,” said Bielema, who has no head coaching experience.

Alvarez said he expected no problems in the transition and decided to make the announcement now to avoid any problems later. This way, Bielema gets a full year to work on his first recruiting class.

Alvarez also said he had no plans to be a meddlesome athletic director, preferring to follow in the example of his college coach, Bob Devaney of Nebraska.

Devaney held both jobs before stepping down to become a full-time athletic director. He then hired assistant Tom Osborne to take over the program and stayed out of the way.

AP-ES-07-28-05 2224EDT

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.