In what might go down as one of the more surprising moves of the 2014 coaching carousel, it has been revealed that Gary Andersen will be leaving his post as head coach of the Wisconsin football program and taking over the same position at Oregon State. Andersen will be replacing Mike Riley who, ironically enough, will be joining the Big Ten Conference as incoming coach of Nebraska.
Andersen was hired a mere two years ago after spending four seasons as head coach of Utah State, where he won 11 games in his final season for the Aggies. In his relatively short stint in Madison, he went 19-7 overall and 13-3 in Big Ten play. The Badgers were the cream of the Big Ten crop in 2014, winning ten regular season games along with a 7-1 record in conference en route to the West Division title before falling to Ohio State in the Big Ten championship game.
The news of Andersen’s departure has to come as a major shock to the system of Wisconsin fans, who’ve seen a second coach bolt in three years for a head coaching job in another conference after a respectable campaign that saw the team make a conference title game appearance. Back in late 2012, after winning the Big Ten no less, Bret Bielema announced that he was leaving to take the Arkansas position, leaving athletic director Barry Alvarez to coach the team in the Rose Bowl. What makes both moves head scratching in their own right is the fact that it is much more difficult to consistently win at Arkansas and Oregon State than it is at Wisconsin.
In addressing the situation which became known to him in a phone conversation with Andersen this morning, Alvarez released the following statement:
“I began working to find a new head coach as soon as I spoke with Gary this morning. My first concern is taking care of the players on the current team, especially the senior class, and ensuring that their bowl experience is a memorable one. I will find a head coach to uphold the great tradition at Wisconsin, someone who is committed to excellence both on and off the field. I want to thank Gary for his two years here and commend him on the way his team performed on the field, in the classroom and in the community. I wish him the best at Oregon State.”
There are a variety of circumstances surrounding the rationale for Andersen to make such as abrupt move. It should be noted that Heisman Trophy finalist running back Melvin Gordon declared for the NFL draft today and the Badgers quarterback situation in recent years has always been tenuous at best. Andersen has also spent most of his coaching career on the West Coast, including 16 seasons in the state of Utah between 1997-2012 before taking the Wisconsin job. In today’s press conference, Alvarez made mention of the fact that his family was a significant consideration as to why Andersen chose to make this move to Corvallis.
For now, as Wisconsin prepares to take on Auburn in the Outback Bowl in Tampa, FL on January 1st, a program that has realized an immense amount of success since Alvarez helped revive this program in the 1990s is left scrambling once again.
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