Whenever you face a major decision — whether it's choosing a college, buying a house or finding a spouse — you start out with a list of things you're seeking.
Eventually, you discover no one person or thing can satisfy every requirement and you wind up with something less than the ideal match. That doesn't mean you've failed, however.
So it is with the University of Wisconsin's soon-to-be-hired football coach, Gary Andersen of Utah State. Andersen didn't match all of the criteria used by UW athletic director Barry Alvarez during his search, but that doesn't mean Alvarez failed.
Just the opposite, in fact. Although he comes from an alternate football universe, Andersen appears to fit many of the requirements Alvarez was looking for in a coach and his track record suggests he has the personality and adaptability to alleviate any concerns about the rest.
Based on the criteria he outlined two weeks ago and the things he looked for when he hired Bret Bielema seven years ago, Alvarez's ideal candidate was this: A college head coach with a defensive orientation who understands the culture at UW and in the Big Ten. A coach who will maintain the status quo schematically and is an energetic recruiter who can bring in good kids and maintain a high-quality program.
On many levels, Andersen fits that description.
He is a proven success as a head coach, using his ability to recruit, relate to and develop players to author one of the nation's more remarkable turnarounds at Utah State. The Aggies were 9-38 in the four years before he arrived and are 26-24 in the four years since, including an 11-2 record this year and a No. 18 national ranking.
His teams are known for being tough-minded and physical, a style that fits the Big Ten. UW fans found that out when Utah State threw a huge scare into the Badgers before dropping a 16-14 decision at Camp Randall Stadium in September.
And he has a long association with top-notch defenses. He was a key defensive assistant on Utah's undefeated teams in 2004 and 2008, and his defenses at Utah State have improved dramatically every year he's been there. This year, the Aggies rank 15th in the nation in total yards.
There are areas of concern with Andersen coming to UW, however, and the two biggest are his preferred style of offense — the spread — and his ability to recruit in UW's traditional recruiting areas, most of which are foreign to him.
Neither of those was a deal-breaker for Alvarez and they shouldn't be for UW fans, either.
Alvarez is adamant about maintaining UW's power running game, as he should be. The Badgers' one natural recruiting advantage is their ability to find huge linemen to run behind. To employ an offense that uses smaller, faster linemen would negate that advantage and could lead to disastrous results (See: Morton, Don).
Former offensive coordinator Paul Chryst had great success by layering an NFL-style passing attack over UW's traditional running game. Can Andersen find a way to keep some of his spread concepts and yet utilize UW's behemoths in a power running game?
His defensive track record suggests he's a coach who is willing to adjust his schemes. Andersen coached a 4-3 defense at Utah and, until this season, at Utah State. He switched to a 3-4 this year because that's what his talent dictated.
The good news is Utah State featured balance between running and passing. That meant Alvarez didn't have to sell Andersen on the value of running the ball, only how best to do it given UW's talent pool. Obviously, the two discussed that and it was settled to Alvarez's satisfaction or Andersen wouldn't have been selected.
The other question mark is recruiting. Andersen has few Midwest ties and for most of his career recruited in Texas and the West. At Utah State, his roster was heavy with Utah natives, Samoans and junior college transfers. He won't make a living recruiting any of those communities at UW.
However, Andersen is widely considered to be a master recruiter with a winning personality. At Utah State, he won in-state recruiting battles with Utah and BYU, something that was unthinkable a few years ago. That ability won't leave him just because he switches time zones.
As long as UW's program remains strong, any UW coach will be able to recruit Wisconsin kids, so that shouldn't be a problem. It is UW's other traditional recruiting areas — Big Ten country and New Jersey — that will be a concern.
However, there is a solution there, too. Andersen can move to negate any disadvantage by hiring assistants with recruiting ties to those areas.
Andersen was in demand this month, reportedly turning down offers from Kentucky, Colorado and California. Despite his popularity with athletic directors, however, his name and style didn't immediately resonate with UW fans.
But Andersen's profile isn't as out of sync with Alvarez's criteria as it first appeared. If he can find the right blend on offense and add some Midwestern recruiters, this could be a very prosperous marriage, indeed.
Contact Tom Oates at email@example.com or 608-252-6172.