Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Wisconsin hires Gary Andersen

Former (technically interim) Wisconsin Badgers head football coach and athletic director Barry Alvarez found his replacement for Bret Bielema who shockingly left Wisconsin for Arkansas earlier this month by hiring Gary Andersen.  The 48-year old former Utah State head coach is classified as a defensive minded players coach, which gives Wisconsin their third consecutive defensive first head coach in the mold of Alvarez and Bielema.  Andersen used a spread offense at Utah State.  There is no word yet whether Andersen will stick with the spread offense or adopt Wisconsin's ground and pound approach.

Recent history suggests that it makes sense that Wisconsin hired a defensive minded coach but it was a bit of a shock for both Utah State and Wisconsin that it ended up being Andersen.  Alvarez got to see Andersen's work up close and in-person earlier this year when Wisconsin beat Utah State 16-14 on September 15th in Madison thanks to a missed 37-yard field goal attempt by Utah State kicker Josh Thompson in the waning moments of the game.  Earlier this season Andersen signed a contract extension at Utah State worth roughly $750,000 annually through 2018.  Andersen got a nice raise from Wisconsin by signing a five-year, $10 million contract worth $1.8 million in 2013 that contains $100,000 raises each of the next four years.  Despite Andersen having a chance to interview at California and Colorado earlier this year, he said that he wanted to stay at Utah State.  Apparently the chance to coach Wisconsin (along with a hefty raise) was more enticing than Utah State, Colorado, or California.

Alvarez choose Andersen instead of a number of other strong candidates: Chris Ash (current defensive coordinator for the Wisconsin Badgers and future defensive coordinator for the Arkansas Razorbacks), Paul Chryst (current head coach for the Pittsburgh Panthers and former Wisconsin Badgers assistant), Dave Clawson (current head coach for the Bowling Green Falcons), Dave Doeren (current head coach for N.C. State and former Wisconsin Badger assistant), and Mel Tucker (current defensive coordinator for the Jacksonville Jaguars and a former Wisconsin Badgers defensive back).

Andersen is a native of Utah that started his coaching career in 1988 in Louisiana before coaching out west (Arizona, Idaho, and Utah) at various places from 1989 through 2012.

Andersen served as a defensive assistant at Utah from 1997-2008 (1997-02 defensive line/special teams coach, defensive line coach in 2004, and defensive coordinator from 2005-08) with one unsuccessful season as head coach of Southern Utah in 2003 mixed in where he posted a record of 4–7.  Andersen finished as a Broyles Award finalist in 2008, an annual award given to the top assistant in college football, before becoming the head coach of Utah State in 2009.

When Andersen took over Utah State they were coming off a 3-9 season, which was actually a successful season since Utah State had not won three games since 2005.  Andersen finished 26-24 record overall (1-1 in bowl games) at Utah State: 4-8 in 2009, 4-8 in 2010, 7-6 in 2011 (lost to Ohio University in the 2011 Famous Idaho Potato Bowl), and 11-2 in 2012 (beat Toledo in the 2012 Famous Idaho Potato Bowl).

Hiring Andersen is the first step for a Wisconsin Badgers football program that will have put together an entirely new coaching staff twice in less than 18 months.  After last season Wisconsin replaced almost all of their assistant coaches, which is what they will end up doing after this season as well since most assistants agreed to coach the Rose Bowl but accepted similar positions with other programs for next season.

It is way too early to see how all the assistant coach positions will shake out but it looks like it will be a mix of current Wisconsin assistant coaches, former Utah State assistants, and a few select assistants from other programs.  According to various reports, Andersen will bring three coaches with him from Utah State: Dave Aranda (defensive coordinator), Bill Busch (special teams coordinator/safeties coach), and T.J. Woods (offensive line).  Andersen hopes to bring former Utah State assistant coach and current Utah defensive line coach Chad Kauha'aha'a with him as well.

In terms of current Wisconsin assistants, since most already accepted positions with other programs, unless Alvarez and Andersen can lure some of those guys back to Wisconsin the early indications are that only Thomas Hammock (running backs coach), Bart Miller (offensive line coach), and Ben Strickland (assistant secondary coach) will stay at Wisconsin.

Fans might have wanted Alvarez and Wisconsin to make a flashier hire than Andersen but that is just not the Wisconsin way.  The recent success of less flashy coaches like Bo Ryan and Bret Bielema in basketball and football respectively shows that bringing in a guy like Andersen is the right move.

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