Not long after losing 59-0 to Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship, Gary Andersen was contacted by Oregon State. The Beavers wanted him to become their next head coach.
“It would have been a couple days after (the Big Ten Championship),” Andersen said on The Doug Gottlieb Show. “Whether that was on a Monday or a Tuesday, I wouldn’t really know off the top of my head. But the interest for Oregon State was there in my mind for a long time. I just didn’t think Coach (Mike) Riley was gong to leave. I thought he was going to be a lifer here. He’s done some great things. But again, (I had a) tremendous respect competing against Oregon State and also recruiting against Oregon State in my time at Utah.”
Having respect for Oregon State is fine, but why leave Wisconsin? You won nine games in your first year, you won 10 games this year, and you had a Heisman Trophy finalist. Why leave?
“Well, it’s a simple answer, and no one wants to buy that answer,” Andersen said. “I got in the conversation with Oregon State, (and) it became very apparent that the direction they were heading fit myself and what I believed in as a head coach. You were right. I was at a tremendous place. I had tremendous, tremendous kids. I think there’s a time and place for all coaches, administrators – whatever it may be – (where) you got to look at yourself in the mirror, check your ego at the door sometimes and do what you think is best for yourself.
“I’ve been around a lot of great kids and had an influence on some great young men’s lives at Wisconsin, but I felt like in my mind, I know this is where I was supposed to go.”
Still, there are those who say Wisconsin is very difficult place to coach. One, you have to coach in the shadow of Barry Alvarez, who brought Wisconsin to prominence, and two, you have to coach in the shadow of Bret Bielema, who led the Badgers to three straight Rose Bowls.
Is that fair?
“I would say this,” Andersen said. “We won 10 games, we won nine games, we won our side of the conference, we did some great things with some tremendous young men – I was just fortunate to be a part of it. So following a very successful program and what Bret did, I have great respect for Bret. I’m excited to meet him one day. I’ve never had the opportunity to meet him. He’s a great coach, did some tremendous things. But I think whoever walks into there right now is going to follow two staffs that did a tremendous job.”
But what about Alvarez? Does he cast too big of a shadow?
“That’s absolutely not true,” Andersen said. “Barry Alvarez is a Hall of Fame athletic director just like he is a coach in my opinion. Does he want to be involved in football? Yes, he does – just like he does with basketball, hockey, so on and so forth. But he does not stick his nose into football. He wants to make sure student-athletes are taken care of. That’s the bottom line.”
No. 18 Wisconsin (10-3) plays No. 19 Auburn (8-4) in the Outback Bowl on Jan. 1 at noon.
Oregon State (5-7) is not bowl-eligible.