Year in Review: Born Leaders

first_imgBEN SCHMIDT/Herald photoThis past year shed a spotlight on head coaches at the University of Wisconsin.Just as 2006 began, football coaching legend Barry Alvarez said his good-byes after the Badgers’ Capital One Bowl victory over Auburn, as Bret Bielema then took over the reins.Being the second-youngest coach in NCAA Division I football at age 36, Bielema had a great amount of weight on his shoulders. Making matters more difficult, Wisconsin was a team that was predicted to finish in the middle of the Big Ten after losing several key members from a year ago.Nevertheless, Bielema guided the UW football team to an 11-1 record and a return trip to the Capital One Bowl, becoming just the sixth rookie head coach in NCAA history to win 11 games. Along the way, Bielema earned Big Ten Coach of the Year honors, becoming only the second coach in Wisconsin history to win the award — the other being his predecessor, Alvarez.”It’s a tremendous honor,” Bielema said his award in a Nov. 21 press conference. “It’s something that I’ll carry with me for a long time, but really it’s a reflection of what our team has been able to do, and our staff.”I’m very proud of what our guys have been able to accomplish here.”But Bielema wasn’t the only head coach on campus to enjoy success this past year.Wisconsin’s softball program hired its first new head coach — the second in its 10-year history — in Chandelle Schulte.Despite inheriting a team that lost six starters on the diamond, Schulte led the softball team to a 22-win season, the Badgers’ eighth season with a .500 record or better. She also recorded her 300th career victory as a head coach after several successful seasons at both Southern Charleston and the College of Charleston before arriving in Madison.While it may have been no surprise, Ed Nuttycombe led the UW men’s track and field team to yet another dominating season. For the third straight year, Nuttycombe was named the Big Ten’s outdoor and indoor track and field Coach of the Year. But Nuttycombe let his team do the talking for him as, also for the third straight year, the Badgers won the Big Ten Triple Crown — cross country, indoor and outdoor track and field championships in the same academic year.Several other UW head coaches hit some personal milestones as well.Women’s soccer head coach Dean Duerst — already the program’s winningest coach in his 13 seasons at the helm — earned his 150th career victory and volleyball head coach Pete Waite marked his 450th career win.But the one Wisconsin head coach who earned the highest honors was Mark Johnson of the women’s hockey team.After leading the Badgers to the national championship, Johnson was named the 2006 American Hockey Coaches Association Division I Coach of the Year.The title and award are just the latest of Johnson’s achievements, though, as every year since Johnson has taken over as head coach, the Badgers have set a new school record for wins.It’s easy to see, with all these accomplished head coaches, how Wisconsin is quickly establishing itself as a school of winning tradition on many college athletic fronts.last_img

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