Wisconsin Badgers athletic director Barry Alvarez could not have made a better move than to hire Utah State Aggies’ head coach Gary Andersen to lead the team after former head coach Bret Bielema left the school for the Arkansas Razorbacks.
Andersen took the Aggies from one of the most disappointing programs in all of college football in recent years to an 11-2 team that won the WAC in 2012. Prior to Andersen’s arrival in 2009, Utah State had a combined record of 6-30 in its previous three years. Andersen led the Aggies to a win over their rival the Utah Utes this past season and would have defeated Wisconsin 17-16 on Sept. 15 if it were not for a missed field goal.
It honestly does not get much better for the Badgers then to acquire someone of Andersen’s stature. The school felt disrespected and abandoned after Bielema decided to skip town for the SEC. Many people questioned what would happen to the program without a young coach to lead them into the future. However, the 48-year-old Andersen is not coming to Wisconsin to turn around a beaten up program, he took the job to help the school remain at the top of the Big Ten for years to come.
Alvarez deserves all of the credit after claiming day in and day out that he would find a great coach to lead a great program. As other programs swallowed up other top coaching candidates, it seemed unlikely Alvarez would be able to back up his words. However, the 65-year-old coaching legend turned AD landed a slam dunk with Andersen and blew all naysayers out of the water.
So, who exactly is Andersen besides an outstanding, well-respected coach who became a savior at Utah State?
The Salt Lake City native played center at Ricks College (now known as Brigham Young University) in 1984 and was first-team All-American. He then transferred to Utah in 1985 where he played two seasons and graduated in 1986 with a bachelor’s degree in political science.
Andersen began his coaching career with Southeastern Louisiana as the offensive coordinator in 1988. He then became the offensive line coach at Ricks College from 1989-‘92, the defensive line coach at Idaho State from 1992-‘94 and the head coach at Park City High School from 1994-‘95. He returned to college football as the defensive line/special teams coach at Northern Arizona from 1995-‘96 and had the same job at Utah from 1997-2002.
He got his first college head coaching job in 2003 for Southern Utah but returned to Utah in 2004 to become strictly the defensive line coach with the promise of being promoted to defensive coordinator, which happened from 2005-‘08. Andersen then got his big break when he was hired as the head coach of Utah State in 2009, but nothing could be sweeter than getting the Wisconsin job, which will become official on Dec. 20.
What does this tell Badgers’ fans, coaches and players who are looking forward to playing at Camp Randall? It says that Andersen is a defensive-minded coach with plenty of experience to handle the pressure of coaching a top notch school in a storied conference. He is going to do things the Wisconsin way by using a power-running game behind a solid offensive line while providing a no-nonsense defense that will finish off games.
His goal will be for the Badgers to become a top-10 defense in the nation after producing a top-15 defense this past season with the Aggies, something that simply does not happen in the WAC. This is something Wisconsin has longed for and could ultimately become the difference between the school continuing to play in Rose Bowls and making their first National Championship appearance. Defense wins championships and Andersen plans to put that saying to the test.
Alvarez said he was going to bring in a head coach that shared the same offensive philosophy as him, which is to run the football to set up the pass. Even though Andersen believes in the power-running game as the Aggies ranked sixth in the nation in rushing in 2012, he ran a spread-option offense at Utah State. This will mean recruiting a mobile, athletic quarterback such as Russell Wilson to run the offense properly. Considering Andersen is so well-respected in college football, hopefully he can do a better job of recruiting then Bielema ever did.
It will certainly be interesting to see how Andersen transforms the offense while attempting to keep the same roots. However, this is his team and not Alvarez’s which means people in Wisconsin are going to witness a different offense then they are accustomed to seeing. It will be an offense that could revolutionize the Big Ten and certainly cause problems for the other teams in the conference.
As for now Badgers’ fans, enjoy watching Alvarez coach Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl and get excited for what the future holds because the football program will be in great hands for the next decade or so. On Wisconsin!
Michael is a MLB and NBA Featured Writer for Rant Sports, but covers topics for various teams in baseball, basketball, and football. Make sure to follow Michael on Twitter @MichaelTerrill and on Facebook.