FROM RED INK TO ROSES by Rick Telander


The Turbulent Transformation of a Big Ten Program
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 How the University of Wisconsin athletic department went from a debt-ridden mess in 1990 to one of the healthiest programs in the country, capped by its once hapless football team's stunning 1994 Rose Bowl victory. Telander (The Hundred Yard Lie, 1989) spent 1991 doing a closeup study of what was then a sickly sports program at the fourth largest university in the country. Wisconsin, highly rated academically and with the nation's largest budget--$1 billion--was operating its athletic department at almost $2 million in the red. Its football team was less than mediocre, and the basketball team hadn't been to an NCAA tournament in half a century. The only bright spot was the highly successful hockey team, which was able to pay for itself. Things began to change, writes Telander, when Donna Shalala (now US Secretary of Health and Human Services) was named chancellor in 1988. She inherited an athletic department in such disarray that the state had ordered an audit. She cleaned house and named Wisconsin sports legend Pat Richter as athletic director. His first move was to hire Barry Alvarez as head football coach. In three years he took the team to its first winning season in a decade, culminating in the Rose Bowl victory. Telander examines the effect of such sudden growth on the student-athletes, the school, and the community. While he gives Shalala ample credit for her determination to win while maintaining high academic standards, he's a bit dubious about the role played by ``budget analyst'' (some would say hatchet man) Al Fish, whose supervision of the department's reformation has included megafundraising efforts via rock concerts and the school's endorsement of a sports drink. Telander's oddly muted admiration combined with jaundiced cynicism spike any punch the book might have had, but despite the confused viewpoint, his analysis of the program's transformation is sound and sturdy. (8 pages b&w photos, not seen)

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1994
ISBN: 0-671-74853-X
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15th, 1994