MADISON -- Wisconsin's football program received surprising news Wednesday when head coach Gary Andersen resigned from his position and accepted the head coach position at Oregon State, which was left vacant after Mike Riley left for Nebraska.
Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez said that he found out about Andersen's decision via a telephone call from Andersen after finding out the head coach wanted to meet while Alvarez was stuck waiting for a delayed flight back from New York.
"Earlier this afternoon, while flying back from [New York], I received a call from coach Andersen, who made me aware that he had accepted, he was resigning and has accepted the head coaching job at Oregon State," Alvarez said.
Alvarez said he had no idea that Andersen was considering taking the Oregon State job. He and Alvarez once met once Alvarez arrived back from New York. Andersen also addressed the team, before Alvarez did the same. A main reason for Andersen leaving, according to Alvarez, was that it was the right move for his family and a chance to move back to the West Coast.
"He just talked about opportunity for he and his family," Alvarez said. "That is what he told us."
Alvarez said that the seniors on the team asked him to coach the team for its Outback Bowl appearance against Auburn on New Year's Day, to which Alvarez said he would have a decision made by Wednesday night. Alvarez added that he has already started his search, reminding those at the press conference that he is prepared by "keeping a short list" of candidates for a situation like this.
"We will proceed with our search to find a new head coach immediately," Alvarez said. "I feel very confident we will put a good head coach in place, and I promised the kids that.
"Our program is not going to take a step backward."
Alvarez said that he is not worried about finding a head coach and would like to have one in place before the bowl game, similar to what he had done with Andersen when the Badgers made an appearance in the 2013 Rose Bowl. Alvarez added that he had no worries about the current state of the program and what it would mean for the Badgers going forward.
"We've been to five straight [New Year's Day bowl games]. We've got one of the most consistent programs in the country, we have some of the best facilities in the country," Alvarez said. "Gary made the decision for family matters."
Alvarez said that the team reacted differently, with most of the older players understanding -- having been through the process before -- while younger players were more emotional after being recruited by Andersen.
Gary Andersen Gone
Possible reasons for Gary Andersen leaving UW
I know you guys are hurting, but before you can move on from a breakup, you have to analyze the reasons why it went south in the first place. Let's dive in.
Gary Andersen Gone
Looking back at Andersen's two-year tenure, Alvarez said that he liked the direction the program was headed.
"I thought Gary was a good fit," Alvarez said.
"We've got a great product to sell, a great community, a wonderful university. My phone's been ringing off the hook already. Word's just starting to leak out and I'll be very busy tonight answering phone calls from agents, and coaches, and go-betweens of people trying to get in on this job."
So the search for Wisconsin's next coach begins now. As for what Alvarez is looking for, he said that the coach does not have to have Wisconsin ties, but would like to find someone who has head coaching experience.
"Ties to Wisconsin is not important," Alvarez said. "I would like to find someone with head coaching experience. I've always said this. I think it is important that there's a fit.
"As I keep my short list, that's what I do. I'm around these different guys. I go to different functions where I see how people handle themselves. I make mental notes of who I think would be a good fit for our place."
What's the next step for Alvarez?
"I guess our biggest issue is deciding, going to the people I want to talk to first and then take a look at who else is interested. "