The University of Wisconsin has selected Utah State’s Gary Andersen to be its next head coach.
A source close to the UW football program told the State Journal on Tuesday night it is a done deal: Andersen is UW athletic director Barry Alvarez’s choice to succeed Bret Bielema, who left to become the head coach at Arkansas.
The source said Andersen was going to inform his staff of his decision to leave on Tuesday night.
Sources earlier in the day pointed to Andersen as the leading candidate and indicated a final decision could come quickly.
The sources spoke on the condition of anonymity, because no official announcement has been made.
Utah State concluded the most successful season in school history with a 41-15 rout of Toledo on Saturday in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl in Boise, Idaho.
The Aggies, currently No. 18 in the Associated Press poll, finished 11-2 overall. That included a 6-0 record and first-place finish in the Western Athletic Conference.
Alvarez got an up-close look at the Aggies in September when they nearly upset the Badgers at Camp Randall Stadium, missing a 37-yard field goal attempt with 6 seconds remaining as UW hung on for a 16-14 victory.
The earliest the new coach could be announced is Thursday, due to the two-week waiting period mandated by the state after a job is posted. A big snowstorm is expected to hit the area Wednesday night into Thursday, which could impact the timing of the announcement.
The 48-year-old Andersen was previously reported to be a candidate for openings at Colorado, Kentucky and California.
Prior to last week’s bowl game, he apparently took his name out of the running and decided he wanted to stay in Logan, Utah.
“Opportunities are wonderful,” Andersen said in a story on Idahostatesman.com. “It was very humbling the last three or four weeks to go through that process and be involved in jobs. You learn a lot, but you also learn a lot about yourself and where you want to be.
“And you sit back and take a deep breath and know who you want to be able to be around. I love the kids I get to coach here. … The kids I have in the program, it just was not time. I look them in the eye and I need to be where I’m at.”
Attempts to reach Andersen for comment through the school’s media relations director were not immediately successful.
Jacksonville Jaguars defensive coordinator Melvin Tucker was another candidate, had Alvarez been unable to get Andersen out of Utah. Tucker is a former UW defensive back who played under Alvarez. Tucker interviewed with Alvarez and deputy athletic director Sean Frazier on Friday.
Utah State runs a spread offense, which is contrary to what Alvarez said he is looking for in a head coach. But that should not be an issue, since Andersen came up as a defensive coach — specifically, the defensive line — and could hire a different offensive coordinator if needed.
“I don’t have any problem with our scheme,” said Alvarez, who will coach the Badgers in the Rose Bowl against Stanford on Jan. 1. “I don’t perceive us as a spread them out, fast pace, no huddle, one back, five wides (offense). I don’t see us doing that because that’s not the type of kid we can consistently recruit and we have to remember that.
“You know what the plan is. It starts with those big palookas up front.”
Andersen’s background as a defensive coach likely appeals to Alvarez, a former defensive coordinator and linebackers coach, who earlier hired another former defensive coordinator and linebackers coach in Bielema as his hand-picked successor.
Although the Aggies have built a reputation for their high-octane offense, they were an even better defensive team this season.
They rank eighth nationally in scoring defense, allowing an average of 15.4 points per game, and 15th in total defense, surrendering 322.1 yards per game.
They rank No. 33 nationally in scoring offense, averaging 34.9 points per game, and No. 23 in total offense, averaging 469.1 yards per game.
Andersen took over the downtrodden Utah State program in December 2008; the Aggies went a combined 9-38 the previous four seasons. In his four years at Utah State, Andersen has a 26-24 overall record.
After a pair of 4-8 seasons, his program turned the corner last year, closing the regular season with five straight wins and a berth in the Potato Bowl, the school’s first bowl game since 1997. That team finished 7-6 after a 24-23 loss to Ohio in the bowl game. The seven wins and five league victories were the most at the school since the 1993 season.
Andersen spent 11 years overall as an assistant coach at Utah. He spent the five seasons before coming to his current job as the assistant head coach, defensive coordinator and defensive line coach at Utah. He helped guide the Utes to a 13-0 record in 2008, when they finished No. 2 in the Associated Press poll after beating Alabama 31-17 in the Sugar Bowl.
He also coached at Utah from 1997 to 2002, spending the 2003 season as the head coach at Southern Utah. At Utah, he was a part of seven winning bowl teams, including two BCS bowls. He was defensive line coach under current Ohio State coach Urban Meyer for the Utes team that capped its undefeated 2004 season with a victory over Pittsburgh in the Fiesta Bowl.
Alvarez said one of the things he was looking for in a coach was somebody who “understands Big Ten football.” But Alvarez also said he wouldn’t mind finding somebody who brought some new experiences to the job.
“You always want to bring someone in that brings a little something more to the table,” he said.
[Editor's note: Andersen's role on the coaching staff of the 2004 Utah team was clarified.]