Wisconsin will hire Utah State’s Gary Andersen, according to several reports, after a lengthy search by athletic director Barry Alvarez to replace Bret Bielema. Terms of the deal have not been released, and Alvarez will still coach Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl.
This season, Andersen guided the No. 18 Aggies to an 11-2 record and a 41-15 victory over Toldeo in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl Saturday.
Now the 32nd head coach in the program’s history, he fits Alvarez’s requirements of a defensive-minded coach who likes to run the ball. Utah State had the eighth ranked defense in the country this season, allowing just 15.4 points per game, and they averaged over 200 rushing yards.
Spending four seasons in Logan, Andersen went 26-24 and even scared Wisconsin earlier this year in a 16-14 loss.
The hire may be a surprise to Utah State fans, as Andersen released a statement on Nov. 30 essentially taking himself out of the running for such vacancies as Colorado and California. He also signed a contract extension with the Aggies in October, according to the Salt Lake Tribune.
Still the opportunity to coach in the Big Ten may have proved too great for Andersen, who was the head coach at Southern Utah for one year and a defensive coordinator at Utah for five seasons before taking over the Aggies in 2009.
He won the job over several candidates from the college and NFL ranks.
Jacksonville Jaguars defensive coordinator Mel Tucker and Cleveland Browns offensive coordinator Brad Childress were rumored for the position, and so was Notre Dame defensive guru Bob Diaco. Miami’s Al Golden was reportedly the only candidate who turned down the position.
It will be interesting to see how he recruits in the Big Ten, with such traditional powerhouses as Ohio State and Michigan vying for recruits in the talent-rich Midwest. Andersen can point to the great success he had not only with the Aggies, but also with Utah.
In 2008 he was part of the staff that helped the Utes reach No. 2 in the rankings with a 31-17 drubbing of Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, and Anderson has also helped send 25 players to the NFL.