Somehow, someway, coaching Oregon State in Corvallis was enough of an attraction for Gary Andersen to leave Madison and the University of Wisconsin after only two years as the head coach, leaving a lot of people scratching their heads.
Oregon State lost their head coach, Mike Riley, to a Big Ten West team in Nebraska. No one thought that they’d find his replacement by going to the same division and poaching the coach of the division champions. Andersen was 19-7 in two years with Wisconsin, and is now the second head coach in two years to leave the Badgers for another HC job elsewhere, only that the new jobs don’t seem to be any more lucrative than what he left behind.
What makes Wisconsin such a bad place to stay in for more than two years? Some think that Andersen didn’t get along with Barry Alvarez, the Athletic Director who groomed Bret Bielema and is a bit over controlling when it comes to the football team he coached for 16 seasons. Alvarez is also the one not giving head coach too much money to load up on quality assistants, and having two head coaches leave Madison for jobs that most wouldn’t say are better or even equal paints him in a very bad way.
The Badgers aren’t the cream of the crop in the Big Ten, but they’re always close. They’ve won 19 games under Andersen, and although the season ended with a thumping 59-0 loss in the Big Ten Championship game against Ohio State, the future wasn’t bleak, even without Melvin Gordon. This is a program with just two losing seasons in the last 20 years and with only one season of less than eights wins over the last ten years. This isn’t a scrub. This is a team on the cusp of national prominence, and certainly no pushovers as all their results, even in losses (except for the 59-0 loss), show.
Recruiting might not be the easiest thing when it comes to bringing players to one of the coldest states in the nation. Academics make it difficult to go after the best high school players. But other schools do very well academically and we don’t see head coaches jumping ship just because you can make your way around grades somewhere else. From all the reasons and conditions, it seems that not being able to hire a quality or high-paid staff along with strong intervention from the AD’s office comes as the easiest thing to believe. Missing life on Western half of the United States doesn’t make so much sense.
This is a blow for Wisconsin, despite Alvarez saying the two last head coaches leaving is not part of a trend, and that they’ll be replaced with good coaches and a good staff. This is a hit on the Big Ten, a conference trying to lick its wounds from years of decline, maybe finally being in some sort of positive upward swing thanks to the Buckeyes being included in the college football playoff. Having coaches of marquee programs in the conference leave for less than heralded jobs elsewhere leaves a bad impression.
Andersen has been a head coach at Southern Utah for one season (2003), at Utah State from 2009 to 2012 (going 26-24 including 11-2 on his last season) and two seasons at Wisconsin. He comes to an Oregon State program that hasn’t won the conference title since 2000, going 5-7 last season, Mike Riley’s last with the program.