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Column: Badgers make best of a bad situation

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Column: Badgers make best of a bad situation

Loyalty being what it is these days in college football, you didn't know whether to be happy or sad to see Barry Alvarez back on the Wisconsin sideline seven years after he left coaching to become the Badgers' athletic director.

Wisconsin was one of two schools playing Tuesday - Northern Illinois was the other - whose head coach bailed out on the team between the end of the regular season and a bowl game. That's becoming such a regular occurrence, even when big-time BCS bowls like the Rose and Orange are involved, that it hardly qualifies as news. At least a half-dozen other teams found themselves in the same position during the current bowl season, and five more had to make do without one of their coordinators in the fold, which can be every bit as disruptive.

We even have a repeat offender this time around: Butch Jones, who left Cincinnati on Dec. 7 - a day after promising the athletic director he would return - to take the head-coaching job at Tennessee. He did the same thing to Central Michigan two years ago, and in both cases left the bowl mop-up work to assistant Steve Stripling, who followed Jones to Cincinnati and is already set to join his new staff at Tennessee. Nobody gets mad at shenanigans like that anymore, especially when the coach, like Jones, is an up-and-comer. There's too much money at stake now for either side to take it personally.

Even so, a few things made the Swap-O-Rama at Wisconsin more interesting than most. First off, running a Big 10 program used to be viewed as a destination job, but when Bret Bielema traded the Badgers for the Arkansas Razorbacks and the Southeastern Conference, it reinforced the perception that for any coach with serious championship ambitions, the SEC is the only place to be. Second, even though six of Bielema's assistants have already lined up jobs elsewhere next season, they all decided to work the Rose Bowl alongside Alvarez, which only seemed fair considering how well he treated every one of them in the past. And then there was Alvarez himself.

The Wisconsin seniors essentially ``drafted'' him after Bielema ditched them, and sweet as it was that he agreed to come out of retirement for this one game, his motives weren't entirely charitable. Alvarez makes $1 million a year as AD, and his deal includes a $118,000 bonus for coaching in the Rose and $50,000 more for winning it.

Even though Wisconsin lost 20-14, most still looked at the temporary measure as money well spent.

``I think it served as a unifying factor,'' junior linebacker Chris Borland said. ``Not that this team would ever experience any dissension, we've got a bunch of character guys. But to have Coach Alvarez come back ... I think it calmed guys' nerves. Initially, I think there was a little anxiety about the situation, at least from the younger guys, and to have Coach Alvarez step back and come back and coach, it brought everybody together.''

For his part, Alvarez said the seven years watching games from a booth upstairs hadn't dulled his competitive instincts, even though the loss snapped his personal 3-0 Rose Bowl streak. An interception by Stanford's Usua Amanam as Wisconsin was driving late also ensured the Badgers a third consecutive heartbreaking loss in Pasadena.

``You know what? Every game we had out here was very competitive,'' he said. ``We were fortunate to come out on top in my (previous) games. This game, the only thing that's different than the other teams that I coached is somehow we found a way to win, and we weren't fortunate enough to get a win today.''

Considering the way the regular season went in Madison, though, you could argue Wisconsin was playing the Rose Bowl with house money. The Badgers nearly lost star running back Montee Ball after he was attacked in August and suffered a concussion, only one reason they had trouble scoring points. They lost three games in overtime and two others by a total of three points, then wound up with the conference's Rose Bowl slot because the two teams ahead of them - Ohio State and Penn State - were ineligible for postseason play.

As an added bonus, Gary Andersen, the former Utah State coach Alvarez hired to replace Bielema, had the chance to watch the bowl practices with some of his incoming staff and was on the sideline Tuesday night to observe the players he'll inherit go through the ringer in a big game.

``The advantages are they had a chance to evaluate the players and have an idea in their minds when they get here, what they have and what they have to recruit, the strengths and weaknesses of the team,'' Alvarez said. ``As I told the team, we have a very good nucleus coming back next year, a lot of juniors, and they have a chance to be an outstanding squad again next year.''

By then, Alvarez, who turned 66 a few days ago, will be back in his office and probably glad of it. So credit him with making the best of a bad situation. But if you watched Alvarez come out of the tunnel at the start of the game, taking two quick steps before veering sharply left to get out of the way of his onrushing players, you know he hardly needed reminding that coaching is a young man's game.

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Jim Litke is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at jlitke(at)ap.org and follow him at Twitter.com/JimLitke.

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Possible playoff opponents for the Capitals are starting to come into focus

Possible playoff opponents for the Capitals are starting to come into focus

With their 3-1 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday, the Capitals' playoff future is starting to come into focus. Washington has only one game remaining and can finish in either third or fourth in the round robin standings. That limits the number of possible playoff opponents for the Caps when the games really start to matter.

First, before talking about who the Caps may play, it is important to remember why. Under the NHL's regular format, a normal year would see teams advance in a bracket, meaning each team knows going in they will be playing the winner of a specific matchup if they advance. This year, the NHL is going back to its old format of re-seeding after each round. This makes determining matchups a bit harder to figure out.

Here's what we know. The Caps are going to finish in the bottom half of the round robin meaning they will play one of the highest two seeded teams coming out of the qualifying round. The Carolina Hurricanes swept their qualifying round series against the New York Rangers. As the No. 6 seed coming in, Carolina is going to be one of the top two qualifying round teams.

RELATED: DEFENSIVE BREAKDOWNS AND MORE FROM CAPS LOSS TO FLYERS

Washington's final seed will be determined by Sunday's game against the Boston Bruins. A win in regulation, overtime or a shootout will mean the Caps are No. 3, while a loss in any fashion will bump them down to No. 4.

The simplest scenario for Washington is that If the Pittsburgh Penguins rally to win their series against the Montreal Canadiens, the Caps are guaranteed to play either Pittsburgh or Carolina as the No. 5 and 6 seeds, respectively. It gets a little trickier if the Penguins lose. If that happens, the Hurricanes become the top qualifying team and will play No. 4. The top team behind them then becomes No. 6 which, as of now, could be the New York Islanders, Toronto Maple Leafs or the Columbus Blue Jackets.

So a rematch with the Hurricanes is a definite possibility for the Caps, as is a matchup with the rival Penguins.

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Report: Derrius Guice's attorney denies client's domestic abuse allegations

Report: Derrius Guice's attorney denies client's domestic abuse allegations

Derrius Guice's representation has released a statement that says the Washington Football Team running back "adamantly denies" the charges that he was arrested for on Friday

Guice turned himself into the Loudoun County Sheriff's Office facing one count of strangulation, three counts of assault and battery, and one count destruction of property.

The following statement from Peter Greenspun was obtained by Ben Standig of The Athletic. 

"Mr. Guice will not be commenting on these charges, which he adamantly denies. We ask that the media respect Mr. Guice's privacy," the statement read. 

"Unfortunately, the investigators did not seek a statement or any input for Derrius before the warrants were issued. The failure to fully investigate allegations of events, which allegedly took place months ago is inexplicable."

Greenspun, who has a historic career and most notably was a defense attorney in the 'D.C. Sniper trial,' called the charges of his client "unsubstantiated." He also called out the football franchise for releasing Guice prematurely without inquiring about the investigation. 

"... a full vetting of the allegations will take place, in contrast to actions by local law enforcement and the Washington Football Team that assumed the worst, directly contradicting every sense of fairness and due process," the statement concluded.

The Washington Football Team released Guice less than an hour after his arrest became public. The move came through as a part of the culture Ron Rivera has vowed to instill during his first few months as head coach. This is also not the first time Guice has faced issues for off-the-field behavior. He fell to the team back in the 2018 draft due to issues he had while with LSU.

In his short tenure, Rivera has dealt with a tumultuous series of issues arising from the franchise including current and former players facing other serious allegations, a monumental name change, and serious allegations of the culture within the team's executives.

Despite injuries mounting in two years for the 23-year-old back, it was expected that Guice would become the leading rusher in the backfield this season. Still, he had yet to prove to be a consistent contributor with only 42 carries for 245 yards and two touchdowns entering his third season.

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