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December 21, 2012
MADISON, Wis. - Wisconsin's coaching search lasted longer than many thought it would when former head coach Bret Bielema announced he was leaving for Arkansas in early December. At the time, the obvious replacement was Pittsburgh head coach Paul Chryst, who left Wisconsin only a year ago after serving as offensive coordinator for the last seven seasons.
But Alvarez said Chryst wasn't an option, and that he wasn't in a rush to find Bielema's successor. Just over two weeks later, Alvarez had found his man. Gary Andersen was introduced as Wisconsin's new head coach Friday morning in the Kohl Center's Nicholas-Johnson Pavilion, and said he was ready to step up and lead his new team.
"Coach Alvarez offered me the job and I just said 'yes,'" Andersen said Friday in his press conference. "I think I shocked him a little bit. I didn't ask any questions, I just put my hand in the air and was ready to go."
Andersen spent four seasons at Utah State, where he complied a record of 26-24. He led the Aggies to two bowl games and won the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl just six days ago, the day before Alvarez got in touch with him about interviewing for the open head coaching job. Alvarez went to interview Andersen with two other athletic department officials, and it was clear to them after the interview that both Alvarez and Andersen had a lot in common.
"As we left, [former athletic board chairman] Walter Dickey made the comment, if I would have had a blindfold on, I would have thought that was you that was answering the questions," Alvarez said. "That's how our philosophies and our beliefs have meshed."
Andersen's Aggies ran a spread offense this season, and almost took down the Badgers in Camp Randall on Sept. 15. The Badgers eked out a 16-14 win when Utah State missed what would have been a game-winning field goal. But Andersen said he's not planning on changing the run-first offense that the Badgers used so successfully under Alvarez and Bielema.
"We will be a power run team," Andersen said. "We will use tight ends and use multiple sets and multiple formations, absolutely. I believe we'll be a football team that will be run first, and our goal and our mindset and our want to will be to wear you downs as the game goes on and to out tough you and out physical you."
Andersen also said he believes that the Badgers have everything they need to succeed at the highest level, and he is in the process of hiring his own staff for the 2013 season. Andersen already announced that secondary coach and former Badger captain Ben Strickland will remain with the team next season, and that he's planning on bringing a few of his Utah State assistants with him to Madison. But offensive coordinator Matt Wells was named Andersen's successor on Thursday, which means the Badgers are in the market for an offensive coordinator for the second season in a row. But Andersen said he isn't worried, and thinks there will be plenty of qualified candidates for him to choose from.
"I will look out, reach out to find a quality coach," Andersen said. "I will say this about the offensive coordinator. When you're at the University of Wisconsin, it's a great job. It's not a good job, it's a great job for an offensive coordinator, and offensive coordinators will understand that. They'll line up a thousand deep if you want them to."
Andersen met with his new team briefly before practice Friday afternoon, but said that for now he's focusing on getting himself and his new staff ready for the 2013 season. After all, despite all the rumors that flew back and forth over the last few weeks, the Badgers still have a bowl game left to play in.
"I'm humbled. I can't wait to get started," Andersen said. "Again, my intent with the kids is to watch them go win a Rose Bowl and do everything I can to put them first."
For more Wisconsin Badgers news, notes and discussion, follow John on Twitter.