A home-and-home series between Alabama and Wisconsin confirms what Barry Alvarez has been saying all along about the Badgers competitive standing nationally, the commitment to upgrading the schedule and the need for more quality intersectional matchups.
In sum, he says the beneficiaries are the players, the fans and college football.
"It's exciting and healthy for everyone," enthused Alvarez, the UW director of athletics and Hall of Fame coach. "When we were contacted to see if we would be interested in a home-and-home with Alabama, I told them, 'Let me check first with (head coach) Paul (Chryst).'
"Naturally, I would be interested.
"So, I asked Paul and he said, 'Absolutely.'
"And we both really liked the fact that the first game is going to be here."
On Sept. 14, 2024, the schools will play at Camp Randall Stadium (80,321) in Madison.
On Sept. 13, 2025, they will stage the rematch at Bryant-Denny Stadium (101,821) in Tuscaloosa.
Tradition-rich Alabama has won 17 national championships, including five of the last 10.
Wisconsin owns the fifth-longest bowl streak in the country and joins the Crimson Tide as one of just seven schools nationally to win at least 100 games over the past 10 seasons.
"Players come here to play in big games against the best teams — it's a way to measure themselves," Alvarez said. "A match-up like this excites your team. It picks up the tempo during your offseason. Just like when we opened the season with LSU and Alabama a few years ago."
Chryst's first game as Wisconsin's head coach was against the Crimson Tide in the 2015 opener at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. A 14-7 halftime score turned into a 35-17 win for third-ranked Alabama over the No. 20 Badgers. The Tide went on to win the national title that season.
The only other meeting between the schools was in 1928 (Wisconsin won 15-0 in Madison).
"It's going to be awesome to have Alabama in Camp Randall," Alvarez said. "And it's going to be a great experience for our players and fans to be able to go down there (Tuscaloosa) and see the atmosphere and the intensity that they have for football in a SEC stadium."
In the 2016 opener, the Badgers beat LSU, 16-14, at Lambeau Field in Green Bay.
"All along, I've felt like we can match up with people and be competitive with anyone. We've shown that in bowl games against Southeastern Conference teams. And now, we're going against the best in Alabama, a program that has consistently been in the playoffs and playing for a championship."
The general trend has been to book these types of heavyweight matchups for neutral sites. Next season, for instance, Wisconsin will play Notre Dame on October 3 at Lambeau Field. The following season (2021), the Badgers and Fighting Irish will meet at Soldier Field in Chicago.
"It did surprise me when I was called about doing a home-and-home," Alvarez admitted. "We've said all along it's hard to get these games. It's hard to find someone who's willing to do it, and, then, once you do, it's hard to make it fit in both schools' schedules. A lot of things have to fall into place.
"A year or so ago, Greg Byrne (the Alabama athletic director) texted me about doing something like this. I said I would be interested. With the College Football Playoff, there has been a lot of talk about strengthening non-conference schedules with other Power 5 teams."
The Badgers have made a concerted effort to bolster their future schedules with home-and-home series. In addition to Alabama, they have agreements with Washington State (2022 and 2023), Pittsburgh (2026 and 2027), UCLA (2029 and 2030) and Virginia Tech (2031 and 2032).
Meanwhile, Alabama has scheduled non-conference games at neutral sites for 10 straight years, including this season's opener against Duke in Atlanta. The last time that the Tide played a non-conference opponent on the road was 2011 at Penn State.
Alabama has upcoming home-and-home series with not only Wisconsin, but with Texas (2022 and 2023), West Virginia (2026 and 2027), Notre Dame (2028 and 2029) and Oklahoma (2032 and 2033).
"That's the trend now," Alvarez said. "You're starting to see more of these crossover games. You'll see a handful this year and you'll see more and more of them on people's schedules. For us, Alabama isn't that far out. It's within sight."
Members of the 2020 recruiting class will have a chance to play in that 2024 game.
Moreover, Alvarez stressed, "We're sensitive to what our fans are looking for."
It's why he jumped at the opportunity to bring the Crimson Tide to Camp Randall Stadium.
"You're going to sell your season tickets every year but to get people to go through the turnstiles, they want to see good competition," he said. "They don't want to see an FCS team. They don't want to see teams that you're going to drub.
"They want to see good competitive football, and I don't blame them."
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