Before Bret Bielema ditched Wisconsin, no one would have thought that Utah State would be the location from which the Badgers landed their replacement.
Off the beaten track? Yep. Lower divisions? Yep. Boise State head coach Bryan Harsin? Why not. Boise State fans are inured to rumors of coaches leaving like they are to the spiciness of a Flying Pie pizza.
Anyway, after naming the initial first-blush replacements for Gary Andersen, we're going to a next tier. Of course, it's still early in this search, as day two is just getting underway. But let's go inside my head. Bring gorp.
Colorado School of Mines head coach Bob Stitt
If you're looking for a coach with whom academic standards aren't going to be an issue, why not go after an offensive mastermind who took over a Division II school that hadn't won since the Eisenhower administration and turned in a 15-season run where the Orediggers only finished under .500 twice? Bob Stitt's become a bit of a cult hero in coaching circles. He's built an offensive scheme that some of the modern innovators of college football have borrowed liberally from. He's also still only 50.
Oh, and the average ACT score for the Orediggers is 29. Admission questions? What admission questions?
Memphis head coach Justin Fuente
Gary Andersen Leaves Wisconsin
Barry Alvarez addresses Andersen's departure
Very shortly after news broke of Gary Andersen's departure for Oregon State, Barry Alvarez addressed the Wisconsin media.
Gary Andersen Leaves Wisconsin
Here's why Fuente seems really interesting: Memphis has been really bad at football. Before Fuente got the Tigers to 9-3 last season, Memphis had a .200 winning percentage over its last five seasons, and he did it with a sophomore quarterback in Paxton Lynch and an offense that took what the defense gave it and made a lot of passing plays.
There are two reasons, though, why this 38-year-old coach on the grow is a wild card and less of a realistic candidate. First, he has a reputation as a passing coach, though with sustained success this year, Memphis did run the ball a lot more. Second, this is his first year of true success, and Memphis did give him an extension after a 4-8 season in 2012. The Badgers might not look that hard, and there might be jobs he wants more.
Utah State head coach Matt Wells
You want continuity? Then let's go back to Utah State. In the time immemorial since Gary Andersen left to join Wisconsin, Wells has gone 18-9 with the Aggies. He also did so without consistent use of quarterback Chuckie Keeton; in fact, this 9-4 season came with the Aggies down to their fourth-string quarterback in Kent Wells. Matt Wells knows how to move the ball with consistency and had an above-average offense with no continuity at quarterback. Wells is only 41, and if this move would drive Dave Aranda away, there would potentially be a Wisconsin graduate in Todd Orlando coming in to replace him.
Iowa State head coach Paul Rhoads
If you think Pitt's Paul Chryst has lost some luster as a head coach, Paul Rhoads is losing traction quickly in what is consistently one of the hardest Power Five jobs in college football. Sure, he's coming up on year four of a ten-year contract, but Iowa State's last two seasons have turned a good effort into something less so. When Rhoads' name came up in 2012, he was 24-27. Johnny Majors was 24-30-1 for his tenure at Iowa State. Now, Rhoads is 29-46.
He can still beat Iowa consistently, but if Rhoads is being mentioned, it sounds far less of a palatable hire.
Boise State head coach Bryan Harsin
Just because Chris Petersen left doesn't mean you shouldn't be sleeping with one eye open, Boise. Protect your necks, suckas!
Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Greg Schiano
Schiano is the Brad Childress Memorial Stupid Smelly Trial Balloon Barry Alvarez might float. He was a .500 coach at Rutgers and showed infinite amounts of growly, idiot braggadocio in the NFL. Do not want. Might have to hear about it.