It was shocking last week when Oregon State football coach Mike Riley walked on what was essentially a lifetime contract at Oregon State and went to Nebraska. Now the Beavers have returned serve and replaced him with another Big Ten coach.
Wisconsin confirmed Wednesday afternoon that Gary Andersen, 50, is leaving the Badgers after just two seasons to succeed Riley.
A first thought: Props to Oregon State AD Bob DeCarolis, who followed up Riley’s quick (and unforeseen, by anybody) departure with a fast hire of his own. Riley was announced only last Thursday, so DeCarolis got it done in a mere six days. Ironically, one of the names associated with the OSU search was Matt Wells of Utah State. That’s the school where Andersen earned his head-coaching chops before moving on to Wisconsin.
OSU is also announcing a $42-million renovation to the Valley Football Center, and I have to believe they opened up the wallet somewhat for Andersen, who was making $2.2 million at Wisconsin. Riley was being paid only $1,510,000, lowest salary in the Pac-12.
Some Andersen background: He’s been entirely a Western guy prior to his Wisconsin experience, and that may have played into the surprise move. He played center at Utah in the mid-’80s and coached at Idaho State and Northern Arizona before a long run as an assistant at Utah, the last few years of which were spent under Utes coach Kyle Whittingham. Then Andersen moved up the road to Utah State, which had struggled mightily, and after two losing seasons, turned the Aggies into a 7-6 (in 2011) and then 11-2 team in 2012, which opened the door to Madison, Wis.
No doubt Andersen exceeded beyond expectations at Utah State, but let’s not go overboard: Seahawks Bobby Wagner and Robert Turbin, both Aggies, were recruited by the previous USU staff of Brent Guy, who was fired after a 9-38 record from 2005-08. They did, though, have their best years at Utah State under Andersen.
The Andersen move could be similar in style to that of Todd Graham, the Arizona State coach, who spent one uncomfortable year at Pitt in 2011 before bolting for the West, saying Pitt was a bad fit. It was Andersen, and the Badgers, on the bad end of the horribly officiated end of the Wisconsin-ASU game in Tempe, when Pac-12 refs dithered and let the clock run out mistakenly on Wisconsin.
Meanwhile, somebody’s going to start wondering what’s the problem at Wisconsin. Two years ago, it was Bret Bielema who abruptly departed for Arkansas, and now Andersen. The athletic director is Barry Alvarez, the ultra-successful former Badgers coach (and now member of the college playoff committee), who undoubtedly casts a big shadow.
Andersen’s last game won’t be remembered fondly in Madison. Wisconsin lost 59-0 Saturday night to Ohio State for the Big Ten championship.