From daybreak news of notable Wisconsin Badgers’ alumni J.J. Watt’s costly Big 10 Championship bet with teammate and Ohio State grad, John Simon to Heisman finalist Melvin Gordon announcing his intent to declare for the NFL Draft early, Wednesday was already shaping up to be a weird one for the Badgers.
As we all know, events — good or bad — tend to occur in patterns of threes. So when the announcement was made that second-year Wisconsin head coach Gary Andersen had accepted the same job at Oregon State, fans were shocked, but not exactly surprised, given the conference exchange routine that seems to be trending so far.
Earlier this month, Nebraska athletics director Shawn Eichorst announced that seven-year head coach Bo Pelini had been fired, despite a 9-3 regular season. It was a move nobody saw coming, but the hire to replace Pelini was even more surprising as it was Mike Riley, who left Oregon State after 14 seasons to take the throne as the Cornhuskers’ new head coach.
Here’s the official statement from Wisconsin Athletics:
MADISON, Wis. — Gary Andersen informed the Wisconsin football team at a team meeting at 4 p.m. on Wednesday that he was taking the head coaching job at Oregon State University. UW Director of Athletics Barry Alvarez has immediately started a national search for a new head football coach.
“I began working to find a new head coach as soon as I spoke with Gary this morning,” Alvarez said. “My first concern is taking care of the players on the current team, especially the senior class, and ensuring that their bowl experience is a memorable one. I will find a head coach to uphold the great tradition at Wisconsin, someone who is committed to excellence both on and off the field.
“I want to thank Gary for his two years here and commend him on the way his team performed on the field, in the classroom and in the community. I wish him the best at Oregon State.”
As soon as news broke, social media erupted with Bret Bielema references, but Bielema was Wisconsin’s head coach from 2006-2012 before accepting the head coaching position at Arkansas, so it’s a little different.
“First and foremost I want to thank Coach Alvarez for the opportunity to coach at the University of Wisconsin,” Andersen said. “I also want to thank my staff and the people at UW. We worked very hard together and accomplished some great things. I had the opportunity to meet and coach some great young men and I look forward to watching them as they continue their careers and move through life.”
In two seasons, Andersen led the Badgers to a 19-7 record, and from 2009-2013 as head coach of the Utah State Aggies, he was 26-22, including a 2012 Western Athletics Conference Championship, where he was named the WAC’s Coach of the Year.
“We wish Gary Andersen well at Oregon State University and thank him for his service to our student-athletes, the campus community and the State of Wisconsin.” Said Wisconsin Chancellor Rebecca Blank, “I look forward to working with Barry Alvarez as he selects the next coach of the Wisconsin Badgers.”
With Andersen’s announcement coming yesterday, very few names with serious consideration weight have made its way into discussions. But throughout the speculation and rumors, the Badgers have to stay focused, as they face the Auburn Tigers in the Outback Bowl on Jan. 1, 2015.
*Section Photo credit to Mike McGinnis, Getty Images; Featured Photo (above) credit to Troy Taormina, USA Today Sports.