A stunning departure rocked the Wisconsin Badgers Wednesday evening when head coach Gary Andersen resigned to take the same position at Oregon State.
To analyze this truly shocking departure, we welcome the following writers to an impromptu roundtable session:
- Andrew Rosin (@thegnc)
- Drew Hamm (@drewhamm5)
- Louis Bien (@louisbien)
- Luke Mueller (@Luke_Mueller24)
- Zach Wingrove (@ZachWingrove)
On a scale of 1 to 10, how shocked were you by Andersen jumping to Oregon State?
Andrew: College football is a dirty, smelly business. But Gary Andersen had a reputation as a good guy. And to throw that away for Oregon State after you said we've got to keep battling as your final words as a Badgers head coach? That's why this is a 10. There were no rumors. There was no possibility this could have happened. And yet, here we sit..
Drew: What is the number higher than 10? You know, the one Spinal Tap wanted us to turn it up to? I don't remember, but that's my answer.
Louis: This is a 10. With Bielema, I thought, "Yeah, I can see it." Fans had been hard on him for losing Rose Bowls, and he carried the stank of his fratty early years. He was (probably unfairly) thought of as Barry Alvarez's puppet. It made sense why he might want to move on.
Gary Andersen can't possibly be leaving for any of those reasons. He comes off as more personable and fatherly than Bielema was, and as an outsider it should have taken more than two seasons (not even!) to grow weary of Barry's shadow. The only thing that suggested that he wasn't doing a fine job was one egregious loss to Ohio State and the fact that he thought Andy Ludwig had a good resume.
I think something was seriously wrong behind closed doors.
Luke: 735723509. After covering the game all year and hearing Andersen speak tens of times, I bought in to what he was selling. I can only imagine what it is like for the players who Andersen and company recruiter and the countless others who bought into what he was selling.
Blindsided is the perfect word. No Michael Oher to protect the blindside on this one.
Zach: No question this is higher than a 10 simply because there was no speculation whatsoever that this was even a thought. I agree with everything mentioned above about Andersen being perceived as a genuinely good guy and how his reasons just don't seem to add up. But this is the second time in three years that the team has been blindsided by a coach jumping to a program that is currently at the same (if not a lower) level than WIsconsin is at and it just doesn't make sense.
What are the immediate areas where this affects Wisconsin, and how critical will the consequences be?
Andrew: Jordan Stevenson looked ready to commit today. Hamm's gonna talk further about it. But there's nothing as stark and simple of terms for an immediate area as the fact that the Badgers might lose out on at least one four-star running back. Also, if Dave Aranda follows to Corvallis? That could mean a second defensive switch in three seasons. Never a good time when that happens.
Drew: Recruiting. The consequences could be far reaching too. We hadn't yet seen Andersen's system fully installed with the players he needed, but the 2015 class was going to change all of that. Now with a new coach and a presumably new system, how many of these current recruits are going to fit in? I hope we are able to keep some of the high-end talent we've gotten verbals from, but it certainly won't be all of them and they certainly won't be playing in the same system they verbally committed to play in.
Louis: Yeah, recruiting. The commitment of Antonio Williams made it seem like Wisconsin might finally be picking up momentum as a destination spot for high schoolers. We had the biggest offensive line and the perhaps the most exciting player in the country this past season, and a head coach who was seemingly around for the long term. This mucks everything up. Even if Andersen would go on to prove to be a mediocre coach on the field, he at least had Wisconsin heading in a good direction on the recruiting front. Now Wisconsin will have to rebuild a lot of goodwill.
Luke: Don't feel like I have much to add here. It's clearly recruiting. Andersen was recruiting not only quality players, but more athletic players than any previous coach. He had the reputation coming in as a coach who players loved to play for and could mold players. He was a great recruiter and was making changes as the guys have already pointed out. The good thing is that he has only recruited for two years and there isn't a "Michigan-like" situation where you go from pro-style to spread and then back to pro-style.
Zach: I completely agree with the recruiting aspect, depending on who the new coach is and how much experience he brings to the table. In attempt to bring in some variety to this conversation, I'll add that this loss could potentially be a blessing in disguise for the Badgers in their upcoming bowl game against Auburn. When it was released that the Badgers would have to play the Tigers in the Outback Bowl, I fully expected another bloodbath because I believe Auburn is seriously underrated. If the Badgers had trouble with Cardale Jones, just imagine what Nick Marshall could do to us. But now, if Barry Alvarez does decide to coach the team, I think we can expect to see the team rise to the occasion, and at the very least, put up a close fight against a very solid Auburn team.
Considering this is the second coach to ditch Wisconsin for a lateral (or sub-lateral) move, does this say anything about Badgers football and Wisconsin athletics?
Andrew: Yeah, something's broken. Like the fact they run the athletic department like a multinational corporation. Sure, if this was to keep tuitions down, that would be noble and no one would be looking at that crossly. But this is going into the coffers while the Badgers spend as much on assistants as Oregon State and don't have the budget to go after your top recruits like an Oklahoma or hell, even a Virginia.
And then there's academics. A.K.A. the reasons. Barry Alvarez got this thing of ours going because the Badgers were able to take a chance on a prop 48 player like a Brent Moss. Now don't get it twisted, I'm not saying that we go off and try and just grab whatever star talents that we can get. Cause truth be told? I don't want to grow up to be one of those weirdos #TalkingAboutTheBucky.
But that said, a less miserly athletic department budget and a less hardline stance on the prospects that the Badgers go after would only help the enrollment numbers. People are idiots. They'll go to universities cause the sports are good. That's where you'll make the investment back. Takes money to make money, jerks.
Drew: It is another black eye for the Wisconsin football program, but even Rocky took some shots before winning the title. The Badgers still have a lot to be proud of in terms of football, but turning the head coaching position into a "destination job" will be something that will take more than some Big Ten West championships. This is an even more critical hire than after Bielema left. This new coach needs to stay for a minimum of five years and there has to be sustained growth and success. This has been a frustrating week to be a Wisconsin football fan, but it is worth noting that change isn't always awful...unless your favorite bar changes their specials without advance warning.
Louis: It's freaky how similar Andersen's departure is to Bielema's. Both blindsided Barry and their players shortly after a Big Ten Championship game appearance (Bielema had the courtesy to win his) only to make lateral moves (at best!) way the hell out of the midwest. Barry talked in courteous platitudes, and underneath he had to be seething.
The problem is either 1) Wisconsin isn't ponying up enough money for assistants or 2) Nobody can work with Barry Alvarez breathing down his neck.
The solution to No. 1 is easy -- open up the damn checkbook. Wisconsin's athletic department was No. 2 in the country in total revenue behind Texas in 2013. Take away the $31 million gift for a new Student Athletic Performance Center, and Wisconsin is still in the top 10, right next to schools that are paying much more handsomely for those who butter their bread -- Texas, Alabama, Michigan, Ohio State, Florida, Oklahoma, Oregon, LSU and Tennessee.
The solution to No. 2 is to go back to No. 1. If Barry is actually a nightmare, then lots and lots of money should make him seem a lot nicer.
Zach: No, I think this decision had more to do with Wisconsin really not being the right fit for Andersen. Sure there's going to be theories that Andersen didn't get along well with Alvarez or that he wanted a lower academic standard to attract recruits, but I think the bottom line is Andersen didn't adapt well to the new atmosphere he was placed in and wanted to go back west where he was more comfortable. But with that being said, I think the program currently sits near the top of the Big Ten, but not at the top. And the issue could be fixed depending on who Wisconsin hires next.
In my opinion, the loss of Andersen will not be a tragic one for the program. While I think Andersen did a great job making sure the Badgers didn't regress to a mid-level Big Ten team after Bielema left, I never thought he would be able to take the team to that next level (which would be national title contention) because he always struggled in big games. In the Badgers' three losses this year, Andersen and his coaching staff got outcoached by Les Miles, Pat Fitzgerald and Urban Meyer. The loss on Saturday demonstrated first-hand the current disparity talent-wise between Wisconsin and Ohio State, and Andersen never struck me as the coach who could potentially bridge that gap. In my opinion, the two elite programs in the Big Ten right now are Ohio State and Michigan State, and I don't think Andersen would have ever been able to compete with Urban Meyer or Mark D'Antonio on the big stage. The bottom line is Andersen was a nice, likeable guy who all the players seemed to enjoy playing for, but at times it looked as though he was in over his head, especially in these big games, and I think Wisconsin can do better at the head coaching position.