Jilted: Gary Andersen shockingly bolts to Oregon State, leaving Wisconsin single and looking again

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Author @TheCoachBart

Single, badger, red and white powerhouse football program seeking relationship.

Looking for a long-term relationship, not a fling.

Do not contact if that’s what you’re after. Lover of cheese and beer preferred.


Wednesday, December 10 figured to be a sad day for Wisconsin fans because they were losing a key part of their football program. Running back and Heisman finalist Melvin Gordon was going pro, and a huge void would be open in the locker room with his departure.

Badger fans figured that was the extent of it. They figured wrong.

Late in the afternoon, head football coach Gary Andersen … having occupied his post in Madison for only two years … decided to bolt for Oregon State in one of those shocking news dumps where you go checking the Twitter accounts that put it out there to make sure they’re not pulling a fast one over on you.

Dreams apparently are pliable. After all, it was Andersen’s wife, Stacey, who said in 2012 when her husband took the gig, “this is his dream.”

Apparently, dreams now have a shelf life.

Andersen, fresh off a 59-0 thumping in the Big Ten title game, is heading west for a far less championship-ready made program. He leaves Wisconsin at a confusing crossroads for the second time in three years.


First, the wreckage of this is even more painful than when Bret Bielema exited stage left to go to Arkansas after winning the Big Ten championship in 2012. How is it that such a successful program … one that’s won the Big Ten three times in the last five years and was the runner-up this year … can lose coaches at such an alarming rate to less successful programs?

It defies logic. In the coming days, it’ll start to trickle out exactly why this happened. With Bielema, it seemed to be more public that the coach wanted raises for assistant coaches and Wisconsin wasn’t dipping into all of that.

If it were to come out that Andersen had the same issue, that will be a dark cloud for prospective coaches who are considering the now-open post. However, Andersen has been there only two years and didn’t have the three Big Ten titles Bielema has, so asking for raises for assistants this early is a lot like being in a relationship with someone who calls and says “it’s me” after you’ve only been on one date.

There’s been speculation that it may have something to do with Wisconsin’s stringent admissions rates for athletes, which more mirror a Stanford than an Oregon. However, Andersen had to know that going in. He didn’t just show up for the first day of work and not know the job description.

Another odd aspect of it is the timing. Hires like this don’t happen overnight, and it’s highly doubtful that when Oregon State was making a list of replacements for Mike Riley … ironically now in the Big Ten West in Nebraska … the Beavers tabbed Wisconsin’s head coach when he was preparing for the Big Ten title game.

The aforementioned Gordon remarked that he was “shocked” at the news, and that Andersen seemed happy with his lot in life up to the time when he heard the bombshell report. One, this shows that there’s a gap between the inner emotions of what a coach is thinking and what the players are able to gather.

Two, it shows the blindsiding nature of the decision, especially since a healthy amount of those players came there to play for Andersen.

Is it Barry Alvarez, the athletic director? That would seem a stretch, too, as Wisconsin’s athletic department was second in overall revenue among college programs in 2012-’13 behind Texas, which basically pays a mortgage to that particular top spot (or at least it feels like it) on an annual basis.

Bo Ryan — the coach in Wisconsin’s other big cash sport, basketball — seems to be happy as a clam there. Granted, Ryan coaches a different sport, but if Alvarez was that tough of a person to work for, wouldn’t that have made the rounds to Andersen before he took the gig? Coaching communities are breeding grounds for information to be passed from one to the other.

In the end, we’ll never really know the extent of what lies in a person’s heart that leads him to make decisions we question. Certainly, it wasn’t the money. Andersen is getting a raise, and no, it’s not a pittance to make a few hundred thousand dollars more, but one would feel like if he had gone to Alvarez and said he was considering leaving solely because of that number, Wisconsin would have moved to keep him.

Plus, you’d lose a lot of credibility in the homes of recruits with them knowing you’re just one raise away from bolting wherever you are.

And consider this: surely Oregon State didn’t start their coaching search thinking “let’s call Wisconsin’s coach and see if he’s interested in coming.” This had to be a reach-out by Andersen after only two seasons, which is alarming.


It has to be something, and who knows what, but it leaves Wisconsin hurting. The Badgers are the most powerful program in a watered down Big Ten West. Nebraska is set to go through a transition. Minnesota is improving, but one year doth not make consistency. Everyone else ranges from mediocre to bad.

Someone will step into a ready-made program set to annually compete for the conference title and a top-10 ranking. The issue is: will he stay? If not, why not? As guys always say about pretty girls at the bar, “Yeah, she looks perfect, but there’s a reason she’s single.”

Wisconsin should figure out what that reason is… because for the rest of us, everything seems pretty darn good up there from here.