Gary Andersen had everything he apparently wanted as the head football coach at Utah State.
That’s why it was going to take the right offer to lure him away from the state where he grew up.
Andersen, whose name had come up for other head coaching jobs this season, will be hired as the University of Wisconsin football team’s new head coach, the State Journal has learned.
Multiple sources close to the UW football program on Tuesday indicated Andersen had emerged as the leading candidate for the job that was vacated when Bret Bielema left for Arkansas. One of the sources later confirmed Andersen is the choice of UW athletic director Barry Alvarez.
The sources talked on the condition of anonymity, because the coaching search is ongoing and no official announcement has been made.
Utah State finished 11-2 this season and is currently ranked No. 18 in The Associated Press poll. His team has won 16 of its past 19 games over the last two seasons. The three losses were by a combined six points, including a 16-14 setback to the Badgers in Madison this season.
That made Andersen a hot coaching commodity — his name came up for recent openings at Colorado, California and Kentucky — even though he has a new contract that reportedly runs through 2018 and could be worth up to $765,000, including incentives. That's a big boost from the $415,000 he was paid this season, which put him in the lower 20 percent of coaches nationally, according to a database of salaries compiled by USA Today.
In contrast, Bielema’s total compensation this season was $2.7 million.
Andersen was born in Salt Lake City, which is 90 miles south of where Utah State is located, in Logan.
He and his wife, Stacey, have three sons: Keegan, 21, is a sophomore tight end playing for his dad; Chasen and Hagen, both 17, are twins who are high school seniors at Logan High School; they were members of the undefeated Class 4A state championship team in 2011 and committed to playing at Utah State next season. They are expected to enroll in college in January.
Mark Andersen, who is Gary’s brother, is Utah State’s director of football operations.
Gary Andersen has two Great Danes, who are named Aggie and Big Blue. The former longtime Utah assistant coach had the Aggies logo tattooed on his right shoulder after making a bowl game last season.
“Once an Aggie, always an Aggie,” Andersen told the Idaho Statesman. “And I’ve learned that. I walked in here and I wasn’t an Aggie. To everyone, I was a Ute. ...
“For me, once an Aggie, always an Aggie is something I take a lot of pride in.”
Andersen played at Ricks College in Rexburg, Idaho, and spent 11 years at Utah, including stints under Kyle Whittingham and current Ohio State coach Urban Meyer.
Growing up in the state, Andersen watched how Ron McBride (Utah) and LaVell Edwards (Brigham Young) built programs with a heavy influx of in-state and Polynesian players.
In a recent Associated Press story, Andersen extolled the virtues of living a simple life, with Sunday night family dinners and a new tradition started last year with a one-week family vacation.
“It’s how I was raised and what I believe ... how you can develop a kid and push him to become a hard worker and tough-minded,” Andersen told the AP.
“That’s what the Cache Valley is, a small community where you’re accountable for your actions daily.
“I get to coach the kind of kids I like to coach and for me the Cache Valley is what I grew up in. It is what Salt Lake City was when I was 8 to 18 years old. A part of me likes that.”
Andersen, 48, has no background coaching in the Midwest. His stops along the coaching trail have been in the western part of the country.
But he got an idea of what Camp Randall Stadium is like when he brought his team to face the Badgers on Sept. 15.
UW trailed 14-3 at halftime. That was the first game after Bielema fired offensive line coach Mike Markuson and replaced him with graduate assistant Bart Miller.
The Badgers managed just 234 yards of offense for the game and starting quarterback Danny O’Brien was benched at halftime in favor of redshirt freshman Joel Stave.
UW got a spark in the third quarter from an 82-yard punt return for a touchdown by Kenzel Doe, but couldn’t rest easy until Aggies kicker Josh Thompson pushed a 37-yard field goal attempt wide right with 6 seconds left to preserve the Badgers’ two-point victory.
According to media reports, Andersen consulted with Boise State coach Chris Petersen, who has turned down the chance to coach at bigger schools, before making the earlier decision to stay at Utah State.
“I understand why he’s stayed and it’s very familiar territory in the way my mind works, which to be frank with you, it blows people’s minds,” Andersen told the Statesman. “There’s a lot of people out there who think he’s crazy for staying at times. I’ve never felt that.
“A lot of people have told me I’m crazy, but I don’t feel that.”
[Editor's note: The terms of Andersen's contract extension were not included in the initial post. Logan (Utah) High School initially was listed as state champions for 2012.]