On Friday, Wisconsin will introduce Gary Andersen as its new football coach.
By JESSE TEMPLE FS Wisconsin
The Aggies very nearly pulled off an undefeated season in 2012, which sent Andersen’s stock as a big-time coaching prospect through the roof. Utah State almost beat Wisconsin at Camp Randall Stadium earlier this season before falling, 16-14, when Aggies kicker Josh Thompson missed a 37-yard field goal with six seconds remaining. Three weeks later, Utah State lost, 6-3, at BYU. The Aggies closed the year with seven consecutive victories.
Andersen, 48, spent four seasons in charge at Utah State and helped turn around the Aggies’ program. Utah State finished 4-8 in each of his first two seasons before a 7-6 campaign in 2011 and the first of two straight appearances in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. Andersen went 26-24 at Utah State, including 16-13 in WAC play. Utah State finished 9-38 in the previous four seasons before Andersen was hired.
In 2008, Andersen was named a finalist while a defensive coordinator at Utah for the Broyles Award, given annually to the top assistant coach in college football. He coached for the Utes from 1997-2002, serving as a defensive line coach, special teams coordinator and later assistant head coach and returned to the school from 2004-08. In between, Andersen was head coach for one season at Southern Utah, where he finished 4-7 in 2003.
Utah State’s defensive numbers this season likely appealed to Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez, who once served as a defensive coordinator at Notre Dame. The Aggies rank No. 15 nationally in total defense (322.1 yards per game) and eighth in scoring defense (15.4 points per game). Both numbers are significant achievements considering where the Aggies began under Andersen. Utah State ranked No. 113 in total defense in Andersen's first season (455.1 yards per game) and No. 107 in scoring defense (34.0 points per game).
Andersen will become the 29th head coach in Wisconsin football history, replacing Bret Bielema, who accepted the same position at Arkansas. Andersen took the Wisconsin job Tuesday night and immediately began calling all his Utah State players to personally tell them the news of his departure. He reached the last player on Wednesday morning.
According to the Wisconsin State Journal, Andersen's starting salary at Wisconsin is estimated to be between $1.8 million to $2 million. Bielema was making $2.7 million when he left for Arkansas, where he will make $3.2 million annually.
Andersen had been making roughly $700,000 at Utah State this season, including incentives.