Roses are turning up by the dozens at Donna Shalala's Washington's office from grateful Badger fans on the eve of the University of Wisconsin's first trip to the Rose Bowl in 31 years.

Shalala will be in Pasadena, Calif., too, on New Year's Day, with a seat on the 50-yard line, rooting for the Big 10 team she helped turn around during five years as the university's chancellor."I know we're going to win - by a touchdown," President Clinton's secretary of health and human services said during an interview in her office, where the bookshelves sport three game-winning footballs and a puppet that looks like Shalala dressed in a Badger-red sweat suit.

Shalala had never headed a college with a football team before she took over in Madison in January 1988. But after Wisconsin hit bottom in 1989, winning only two games, Shalala took action.

She fired coach Don Morton, even though he had two years left on his contact, and brought in Athletic Director Pat Richter, who hired Barry Alvarez as coach.

The athletic program "was important to the university . . . and it was important to the people of the state, so I paid attention and did what I had to do," said Shalala.

Repairing an ailing Big 10 football program, she says, isn't much different "than inheriting a large Cabinet-level department that has not made any serious investments for 12 years.

"You hire very good people, you develop an internal strategy, you support your people and then fight like heck for your budget."

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