Wisconsin's Gary Andersen makes 'surprising' move to Oregon State

Jim O'Connor-USA TODAY Sports

Wisconsin's Gary Andersen makes 'surprising' move to Oregon State

For the second time in three years, Wisconsin is in the market for a football coach with Gary Andersen shockingly taking the Oregon State job.

[ MORE: Twitter: Wisconsin players react to Gary Andersen’s move ]

Wisconsin A.D. Barry Alvarez was blindsided when Bret Bielema left to take the Arkansas job after leading the Badgers to the Big Ten title in 2012. This move by Andersen is every bit as surprising.

“I was very surprised,” Alvarez said. “I really had no idea that this was in the works.

“Gary made the decision for family matters.”

Things seemed to be going well for Andersen, who had success in two scant years in Madison by going 19-7 overall and 13-3 in the Big Ten. He took the Badgers to the Big Ten title game this season, losing to Ohio State, 59-0. This season, Wisconsin is 10-3 and earned a bid to the Outback Bowl to play Auburn. The Badgers played in the Capital One Bowl last year, when they finished 9-4.

Now, just as quickly as he arrived as a surprise hire from Utah State prior to the 2013 season, Andersen is gone. He will take over at Oregon State for Mike Riley, who left Corvallis to take the Nebraska job last week in another surprise hire.

“First and foremost I want to thank Coach Alvarez for the opportunity to coach at the University of Wisconsin,” Andersen said in a team release. “I also want to thank my staff and the people at UW. We worked very hard together and accomplished some great things. I had the opportunity to meet and coach some great young men and I look forward to watching them as they continue their careers and move through life.”

[ MORE: J.J. Watt loses Big Ten title game bet, has to wear Ohio State gear ]

Why the 50-year-old Andersen would leave for a lesser job in the Pac-12 is a mystery. When Bielema left for Arkansas, he cited concerns about his ability to pay his staff.

The Wisconsin post is better in every imaginable way than the Oregon State position. Perhaps it was a comfort issues for Andersen. The move to Wisconsin and to the Midwest was out of Andersen’s comfort zone, as he had spent almost his entire career west of the Mississippi. Now, he’s back west, where he has coached at places like Idaho State, Northern Arizona, Southern Utah and Utah State.

What direction will Wisconsin go to replace Andersen? It will be interesting to see what Alvarez does. This is an attractive job that surely will attract many good candidates.

“My phone is ringing off the hook already,” Alvarez said.

The next Wisconsin coach will walk into a stable situation. The program went to the Rose Bowl from 2010-12. And it won the West Division this season. Plenty of talent returns, though star running back Melvin Gordon declared for the draft on Wednesday.

Alvarez said the seniors asked him if he would coach the team in the Outback Bowl, to which he said he will “consider it” and will make a decision Wednesday night.

About Tom Dienhart BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men’s basketball for BTN.com and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at btn.com/tomdienhart, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.

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