South’s Hein played for Wisconsin coach
University of Wisconsin’s football team finished 9-36 the four seasons before Barry Alvarez was hired in 1990. That was the same year Chris Hein was a freshman for the Badgers after graduating from Plymouth.
“As people of a certain age know, Wisconsin football was an embarrassment in the late ’80s,” said Hein, who is the athletic director at Sheboygan South. “I remember going to a game my senior year in high school against Minnesota at Camp Randall. I think there were 15,000 people there. We left in the third quarter.”
“What I remember about Barry the entire time was his swagger, confidence and belief in his system, his program. He famously said it at his press conference when he was hired: ‘you better get your season tickets now because you won’t get them in the future. They’re going to be hard to get.’
“He proved himself right in that regard. That helped us as we were trying to turn a program around from the bottom of the Big Ten to the top.”
The 74-year-old Alvarez, who became the Badgers’ athletic director in 2004, recently announced he will retire in July.
He led UW to three Rose Bowl titles, including the first one on Jan. 1, 1994, when Hein was a junior. He made three tackles in the win over UCLA and finished the year with 53 of them in 11 starts.
Not bad for someone who entered the program as a preferred walk-on and was called into Alvarez’s office the second day of practice his freshman season.
“I was a little concerned,” Hein said. “I had no idea what the meeting was about.”
Alvarez told Hein his staff was impressed with what they saw and he was 99% sure he would eventually earn a scholarship.
“It felt really good to hear words of encouragement from the head coach,” Hein said. “It felt like I made a good decision, and if I kept working hard, that things could work out well for me. I can’t even put into words, really, how important that was. And how helpful it was. … That was helpful to know that he believed in me and thought I could be a contributor.”
Hein was a redshirt freshman and then earned four varsity letters. And he got that scholarship the last two years.
After Hein’s last game, a bowl victory over Duke in 1995, Alvarez sought him out.
“He thanked me for everything I’d given and he just told me whatever I decided to do that he knew I’d be successful,” Hein said. “That meant a lot to me as well, just hearing him tell me that. His belief in me, I took a lot of pride in that. I know he didn’t say that to everybody. To me, he recognized the commitment I made to the program and tried to do the best I could when I was there.”