Andy Baggot: Media access marks huge difference in Gary Andersen era

2013-08-20T06:30:00Z Andy Baggot: Media access marks huge difference in Gary Andersen eraANDY BAGGOT | Wisconsin State Journal | | 608-252-6175

There’s something about first-year University of Wisconsin football coach Gary Andersen that makes his boss cringe and squirm.

Barry Alvarez detests the fact Andersen allows so much media access to his preseason drills.

“I don’t like it,” Alvarez admitted, “but that’s his deal.”

With all due respect to the AD and every cloak-and-dagger coach in the business, I really like how the new guy thinks and I’m pretty sure I’m not alone.

In preparation for the Aug. 31 season opener with Massachusetts at Camp Randall Stadium, the Badgers have had 18 practice sessions — and only two have been closed completely to reporters and cameras.

Two scrimmages — including one Monday — were held in full view of media personnel as well as UW fans with the time and inclination to show up for the late-afternoon exercises.

Three more sessions will be open this week before Andersen starts closing the curtains on a consistent basis. However, he tentatively plans to give media access to a portion of each Tuesday practice during the regular season.

Alvarez can watch the workouts from his fifth-floor office at Kellner Hall, a perch situated in the south end zone of Camp Randall. That’s where he was Monday morning when the topic of Andersen’s open arms policy to the media got him only slightly wound up.

In an instant, Alvarez launched into tale of angst: He got a call last week from his son, Chad, saying a video of the entire first scrimmage could be found online. Alvarez hadn’t seen it, but, sure enough, there it was being promoted on

Alvarez said he called Andersen — who didn’t know of the video — and implored him to meet with UW director of communications Brian Lucas in order to better secure the premises.

“They will be told that’s not permissible,” Lucas said of the troublemakers at BadgerBlitz.

“That’s what happens now,” Alvarez said, referring to the tools of new media. “That’s what you expose yourself to.”

During his 16 Hall of Fame seasons as coach of the Badgers, Alvarez would rather have chewed a box of roofing nails than let the media look over his shoulder during training camp. Any mention of injuries drove him nuts. So did analysis that neglected to account for circumstance — yes, the freshman tailback popped off some big runs, but he was running behind the No. 1 offensive line against the No. 2 front seven — because he felt it distorted the big picture.

Alvarez contracted his sense of coaching distrust from former Iowa coach Hayden Fry. Alvarez in turn passed along the gene to his immediate UW successor, Bret Bielema, whose departure for Arkansas last December paved the way for Andersen to come to Madison.

“Bret was overly paranoid — just like Hayden,” Alvarez said. “Bret, he’s worried about who’s up there (in the stands) painting and all that stuff.”

Yeah, like Alvarez never wondered if spies from Michigan were shooting practice video from nearby rooftops.

Alvarez said he never made his views known to Andersen, who clearly has a different take. He opened practices at Utah State to the fans in part because he wanted a sense of community. Media coverage helped cultivate that feeling.

“I’m not that paranoid,” Andersen said.

Will it last here? Who knows?

What I do know is that access like this creates more reasoned insights, the kind that can help fortify a coach’s decision about, say, his starting quarterback.

I also know is that Andersen is giving us something we’ve not had before and it’s much appreciated.

Contact Andy Baggot


or 608-252-6175.

Copyright 2015 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(8) Comments

  1. badgerfan19
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    badgerfan19 - August 20, 2013 12:31 pm
    Open practices cultivate a positive relationship with fans, boosters, media, high school coaches and prospective recruits. It's not just Gary Andersen being's him being savvy just like at Utah State. If the media is on your side, the program will be painted in a better light and this WILL help recruiting as well as hiring future assistant coaches.

    The recruiting "fence" around WI is an illusion. Natter, Shelton, Wayne, Hardy, Hagerup, Oetel, and Gardner all spurned UW offers these past 4 years. We've lost many more preferred walk-on offers on top of this. Fixing this starts with relationships, which Gary Andersen is wisely creating, while Barry is helping.
  2. Steve_R
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    Steve_R - August 20, 2013 9:11 am
    Typically, since he stepped down as coach, I haven't agreed much with St Barry. But I think he's correct about having too many open practices. They can be nice for fans. But the media has plenty of access to the program already.
    Report Abuse
    ABDGRFN - August 20, 2013 8:56 am
    Knowing the other teams plays and stopping them are two completely different things.
    We were no better than a D3 team when Barry took over and you have to respect him for what he accomplished.
    Every coach has to be his own person with his own style. I am not going to worry about media access, they would just sit at their desk and make up stories anyway. I am just going to go to the games and enjoy the ride.

    On Wisconsin!
  4. Drumbum2013
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    Drumbum2013 - August 20, 2013 8:56 am
  5. Bigtenwi
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    Bigtenwi - August 20, 2013 7:25 am
    I guess wen I read this its just showing he doesn't like it in his opinion and this if GA wants to then he can. And I see the use of words like detests and angst makes one think BA is in an uproar. Were we there in the interview, probably not. And if a coach wants to be discrete then who cares let them. Every coach is different whether it be bullish or friendly.
  6. Fflambeau
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    Fflambeau - August 20, 2013 5:14 am
    I think BobsYourUncle's post is far too personal and disgusting in its attack on Barry. Is he problem free? Nope, but he'd done a very good overall jub for the Badgers as AD. And shouldn't it be to his credit that he has given GA the opportunity to act differently on an issue that they do not see eye to eye on? I support GA's position on practices open to the public (mostly) but there are some arguments for the other approach as well.
  7. BobsYourUncle
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    BobsYourUncle - August 19, 2013 9:47 pm
    Geez!! That Alvarez is such an arrogant putz! If you have been following the sports reports in the Milwaukee paper (if you want actual updates on the badgers and their progress, you must read the Milwaukee paper) you will find out that Mr. Andersen has NOT shown his entire arsenal to anyone. For Barry to take snide shots at Mr. Andersen and Mr.Fry, is, well, another shining example of Barry's self-centered and 'it's all about me' matra. It is too bad that we do not have more coaches like Hayden Fry, Bo Schembecher, Earl Bruce, and George Perles. At least those coaches had/have personalities. I wonder how far BA's coaching tree speads. Last I checked, the four previously mentioned coaches each have a couple dozen former assistant coaches who became head coaches. This is Mr. Andersen's team and his program...he should be able to run it without public comments from BA. As for BA's angelic kid being mentioned in this story.....well, chalk another one up for Barry and his efforts to be front and center. The game has changed, again, Barry! Maybe Mr.Andersen is up with the current trends, and you are not. I went to one of the open sessions. Those players were having fun while at the same time getting their arses chewed and kicked. As you demonstrated by your financial demands for the Rose Bowl, it is all about you all the time. Stay in the shadows, Barry..that's where you belong. Ps. it must kill you that during your last game, at home, prior to retirement, Hayden Fry's former team, Iowa,coached by Kirk Ferentz, ...beat you (and us) again. Also, after your loss at this past Rose Bowl, you fell back behind Mr. Fry with regards to each of your all-time winning percentages. We won't bother comparing your winning percentages with Bo or Earl. Stay classy, BA!!! GO BADGERS!!! GO COACH ANDERSEN!!
  8. pvl256
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    pvl256 - August 19, 2013 7:44 pm
    amen - if you are so stupid as a coach to show off your special stuff in an open practice, then you deserve to be spied on. If other teams want to watch you, while you build community and passion amongst and between your fans and players - then so be it.

    I never really liked Alvarez anyway - and particularly that aspect of him. I thought he was (is, likely) a bully and an ego-maniac. GA is ... refreshing. Love it. Hope (and believe that) he can keep the winning, and just maybe get the program .... well even a 1/2 notch higher?
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