The more Gary Andersen spoke, the more familiar the voice sounded to University of Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez.

This was during the interview process, prior to Andersen being named the Badgers' 29th head coach — and only the third since 1990.

Alvarez started paying attention to Andersen, the head coach at Utah State, when his team nearly upset Auburn, the defending national champion, in the 2011 season opener.

When the Badgers were mostly outplayed and needed a late missed field goal to sneak away with a 16-14 win over the Aggies in the third week of the season, Andersen earned a spot on Alvarez's "short list," which ADs continually update in case of an opening.

"Having watched his teams play, studied his background," Alvarez said on Friday during Andersen's introductory news conference at the Nicholas-Johnson Pavilion, adjacent to the Kohl Center. "Having turned around a program, the important things for him in how he coaches, how he manages a team, how he manages his staff, all those things came out. The longer we talked, the more I could see that. It was such a great fit. It was like he was in my head."

That explains how Andersen, 48, with no ties to Wisconsin or the Big Ten Conference — and who ran a spread offense — became the ideal fit for Alvarez.

Andersen signed a five-year rollover contract that will pay him $1.8 million his first year and go up $100,000 for each of the next four years.

Maybe it was the bond both men shared — built programs out of mostly nothing — that had Alvarez feeling like he and Andersen were kindred spirits. Andersen took over one of the worst programs at the Football Bowl Subdivision level and in his fourth year, won a school-record 11 games.

"Everyone told me how bad Utah State was and what he did," said Alvarez, who won three Rose Bowls at UW. "I know how hard that is."

Even though Andersen had recently signed a contract extension at Utah State and pledged to stay at the school after interviewing for other jobs, that was before the UW position opened up following Bret Bielema's departure for Arkansas.

"Coach Alvarez didn't have to make any pitch to this guy, I'll tell you that," Andersen said. "The pitch was made here when I spent three hours out on that field (in September).

"I wouldn't say I was shocked," he added about the initial contact from Alvarez. "I guess, if I felt like I was shocked, I wouldn't have felt I was ready to take this job."

Andersen appeared thoroughly prepared, laying out his plan for the job, displaying an understated confidence and straightforward manner.

"I do believe this: If the young men take care of themselves academically with the support of coaches, the young men take care of themselves socially with the support of coaches, and we recruit the right way, that's when you win championships," he said.

Andersen made one announcement regarding his staff, saying he is keeping Ben Strickland, a former Badgers cornerback in his first year as a full-time coach on the UW staff. Strickland also is in charge of recruiting in Wisconsin; the state's prep coaches' association expressed its support in keeping him on the new staff.

"I want him here in the worst way and it's important for me to have him on the staff," Andersen said. "Ben has shown me how important he is and he is Wisconsin, if you will. I understand that because that's where I started my coaching career — where I grew up and where I played."

Andersen, who grew up in Salt Lake City, played at Utah and coached most of his career in the state.

A source close to the UW football program confirmed UW running backs coach Thomas Hammock also will be part of the new staff. Andersen said he plans to bring three or four coaches from Utah State, a group that is expected to include defensive coordinator Dave Aranda, special teams coordinator and safeties coach Bill Busch and offensive line coach T.J. Woods. Utah defensive line coach Chad Kauha'aha'a also confirmed he will be a part of the staff.

One of Andersen's key hires will be an offensive coordinator.

"It's not a good job, it's a great job for an offensive coordinator ... they'll line up a thousand deep if you want them to," Andersen said.

As for his offensive style, Andersen pledged a commitment to the power running game, with "a touch" of the option.

"We will use tight ends and use multiple sets and multiple formations, absolutely," Andersen said. "I believe we'll be a football team that will be run-first and our goal and our mindset and our want-to will be to wear you down as the game goes on and to out-tough you and out-physical you."

One of the people Alvarez consulted was Ohio State coach Urban Meyer, who called Andersen, "one of my top guys, one of the top three or four (assistants)."

Andersen was the defensive line coach under Meyer in 2004 when Utah went 12-0 and won the Fiesta Bowl.

After showing he could build up a downtrodden program, Andersen's challenge is to take a successful program and compete with the likes of Meyer and the Buckeyes.

"It's often said in coaching, when you get a job, you're either getting a team that wasn't very good or a team that's really good," he said. "That's the facts.

"It's a little different dynamic, but the hardest thing to break down and build, in my opinion, is the belief to win. ... It's an expectation that they work all year long to do, and these young men expect to win."

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(4) comments


Worried about the "touch of option" comment. Current QBs on roster don't lend to that type of offense.

Maui Jim
Maui Jim

I agree....and remember, the option is basically the same as the VEER!


Look at the returning seniors Andersen will have to work with. No wonder he's happy! He must have been pinching himself that this job even opened up.

spooky tooth
spooky tooth

And two really good young quarterbacks.

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