Former USU coach Gary Andersen is now Wisconsin’s head man– but it wasn’t on the night of Dec. 18, as many reports indicated. Rather, Andersen told players he hadn’t yet been offered the job, according to a source. (Photo credit: Buckys5thquarter.com)
By Rhett Wilkinson
A flurry of media the night of Dec. 18 reported that Gary Andersen was leaving Utah State University for the University of Wisconsin– a move surprising to many, considering his statement through the USU athletic department on Nov. 30 of his intention to “remain the head football coach at Utah State University.”
However, the four-year Aggie coach reportedly didn’t accept the job on the 18th. Rather, he told his 106 players at the time that he hadn’t yet been offered the new position, sources told Aggie BluePrint.
On Nov. 30, Andersen’s quote read in an official USU press release: “The leadership of President (Stan) Albrecht and Mr. Barnes, as well as the support from the fans and community, are big reasons why this is the right place for myself and my family at this time.”
Then on Dec. 18th, ESPN, CBS Sportsline and local Wisconsin newspapers, among others, reported on the move. Others like Salt Lake City-based KSL and the Salt Lake Tribune confirmed the report based on players’ statements.
But Andersen actually told all of his players the night of the 18th and the following day that he hadn’t yet accepted the job, the source said.
The source wrote Andersen’s statement on the 30th declaring that the fourth-year USU coach intended on staying in Logan, though the length of time was undisclosed.
“Coach A has not accepted a job nor has it been offered,” BluePrint was told just after midnight on Dec. 19, the source adding at the time that he was sitting by Andersen while the calls were placed. “He will look at it, however. If offered, probably will accept.”
The source stressed that Brett Bielema didn’t leave Wisconsin for the same job at Arkansas until Dec. 4– four days after Andersen’s public statement.
“Read his statement,” BluePrint was told. “He never said never. This job wasn’t out there. Cal, Kentucky, and Colorado were.”
Indeed, the three BCS schools expressed interest in Andersen as their head coach. But Andersen, who this season guided the Aggies to their first 11-win season in history and first outright conference championship since 1936, spurned the offers before making the now-infamous statement that he would remain USU’s head coach.
A resolution on Andersen’s position would be resolved on the 19th– and that Andersen was the first choice for the position, the source acknowledged. University of Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez reached out to a number of candidates over the phone and interviewed two others, one of which was Jacksonville Jaguars defensive coordinator Mel Tucker.
Thus, the rumors surrounding Andersen’s departure likely resulted from some unnamed players reporting his leaving Logan. In reality, Andersen told all players he hadn’t yet been offered the Badger job– leading to information widely reported on Dec. 18.
“He is definitely front runner or they wouldn’t be doing all this and the ‘leaks’ happen,” BluePrint was told. “My bet is that it happens.”
Andersen indeed flew to Wisconsin on Dec. 19 and accepted Alvarez’s offer– at that point, nullifying his statement at USU on Nov. 30.
“When I was offered the job, I didn’t have to think about it long,” Andersen said. “I said yes. I think I surprised Coach Alvarez– I just held my hand in the air and ready to go.”
USU lost at Wisconsin 16-14 on Sept. 15 in Madison, Wisc., after Josh Thompson missed a 37-yard field goal with 14 seconds remaining.
“Coach Alvarez didn’t have to make any pitch to this guy,” Andersen added. “The pitch was made when I spent three hours out on that field a long time ago.”
Other sources also told Aggie BluePrint that Andersen had told several donors two days after the Aggies’ loss in Madison that the University of Wisconsin and its Camp Randall Stadium was “overrated” and “nothing more than a bunch of cheese and wine.”