Andersen changes directions, heads to Wisconsin
Gary Andersen publicly pledged his allegiance to Utah State not long ago. Now he's on the verge of becoming Wisconsin's coach.
Wisconsin reportedly will hire Andersen to replace Bret Bielema, who left the Badgers earlier this month to take the Arkansas job.
The news about Andersen broke Tuesday night and neither Utah State nor Wisconsin had anything official to announce about Andersen on Wednesday. The delay is at least in part tied to laws in Wisconsin that require a state job to be posted for at least two weeks before it can be filled. The two-week posting was up at the end of business on Wednesday.
The school was expected to introduce Andersen at a news conference Thursday, but a snowstorm might change those plans.
The 48-year-old Andersen just completed his fourth and best season at Utah State. The 18th-ranked Aggies finished 11-2 with a bowl victory against Toledo and won the Western Athletic Conference.
It's been a remarkable rise for a program that had been near the bottom of major college football for years, and stuck in distant third in its own state behind BYU and Utah. The Aggies won nine games in the previous four seasons before Andersen took over. The last football coach to finish his tenure in Logan, Utah, with a winning record was Phil Krueger who went 21-12 from 1973-75.
Andersen drew interest from California, Colorado and Kentucky last month, but decided to pass on those opportunities and received a contract extension from Utah State.
''The interest I have received is a compliment to the quality young men in this program,'' Andersen said in the statement released Nov. 30. ''I love Cache Valley, this university and these young men, and I am humbled and excited to continue to be the coach here. The leadership of President (Stan) Albrecht and Mr. Barnes, as well as the support from the fans and community, are big reasons why this is the right place for myself and my family at this time.''
That was before Wisconsin had an opening. Bielema announced he was leaving on Dec. 4, three days after the Badgers won their third straight Big Ten title and trip to the Rose Bowl.
As late as last week, before Utah State played in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, Andersen was saying he was committed to the Aggies.
''I love the kids I get to coach here. ... The kids I have in the program, it just was not time. I look them in the eye and I need to be where I'm at,'' he told the Idaho Statesman newspaper.
When Wisconsin called, Andersen changed his mind.
It's a tough spot in which many coaches find themselves. It's imperative for recruiting purposes to show unwavering commitment to your current school. But when a coach does jump to another job, he looks like a liar.
''If you can, it's good to not say anything,'' former Arkansas and Mississippi coach Houston Nutt said. ''It's almost now impossible because there's so much information out there.''
Washington State coach Mike Leach said he felt his only obligation was to his employer and his team.
''I think you handle it honestly with the people you work for, but by the same token you don't let the media or public into your personal business,'' he said.
Apparently, many in Utah were caught off guard by the Andersen-to-Wisconsin news.
''I can't believe this...'' Utah State receiver Alex Wheat posted on his Twitter account when word started to spread.
''I hate rumors..'' tight end DJ Tialavea tweeted.
A few hours later, that changed.
''Coach A just called me. Explained the situation. No hard feelings. I have nothing but respect for the man. We must fight on. (hash)AggieNation,'' Wheat posted.
''Just got that phone call always have and always will love ya coach!'' Tialavea tweeted.
The Wisconsin State Journal, which first reported that the Andersen would be the next Badgers' coach, reported Wednesday that Andersen spent Tuesday night calling his Utah State players.
The should buy plenty of good will for Andersen as he heads from his old job to his new one.