Alvarez, Andersen Sought Meyer's Opinion
By Tony Gerdeman
Wisconsin officially announced Gary Andersen as their head football coach on Friday, almost three weeks after the abrupt departure of Bret Bielema to Arkansas.
Andersen, who just led his Utah State team to an 11-2 season and a bowl win over Toledo, has been with the Aggies for the past four seasons where he built a 26-24 record, including an 18-8 mark the last two years.
Prior to being the head coach at Utah State, Andersen was an assistant coach at Utah from 2004-2008. His first year with the Utes happened to be Urban Meyer's final season with Utah. When Meyer left for Florida, defensive coordinator Kyle Whittingham remained as head coach, and he named Andersen his defensive coordinator.
Meyer and Andersen have remained in touch since those days, so it should have come as no surprise that Andersen would ask for Meyer's input when it came to the Wisconsin job.
"I reached out to Coach Meyer during this process to just ask him his thoughts because I have great respect for him having had the opportunity to work for him for a year," Andersen said.
"His first thoughts were obviously that it's a tremendous and great opportunity, and Coach Alvarez is there. That was all a positive. And in the next text he shot back, 'But you gotta come and play us.' I said, 'Yeah, we do', so away we go."
Andersen wasn't the only person in this situation who reached out to Meyer, as Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez also placed a call to the Buckeye head coach.
"I talked to Urban about him,'' Alvarez admitted.
"He's had some very good assistants, like Whittingham. Urban told me that Gary is in the top five of all of them. He's the real deal. I said, 'Would he fit here? Would he fit in the Big Ten?' He said, 'Absolutely.'''
Andersen was the last of three candidates to sit down with Alvarez, and he was the only coach who was offered the job. He said "Yes" almost before Alvarez finished offering it. Meyer's input was exactly what both men wanted to hear, and neither had any hesitations.
Now, Andersen will move from the WAC to the Big Ten. It's an unfamiliar conference, but he will have at least one familiar foe.
"I have unbelievable respect for Coach Meyer, his family, the way he has moved himself through this profession," Andersen said.
"I'm glad he's back in it. I'm excited about having the opportunity to compete against Ohio State and his team. But that game's not about Gary Andersen and Urban Meyer, it's about the University of Wisconsin and Ohio State."
One of the Big Ten's best rivalries, Wisconsin and Ohio State now has a new wrinkle to it. Though this one seems quite a bit more peaceable than previous years.
"I learned a ton from Urban Meyer in a year," Andersen said.
"My experience with Urban was a little different because we never lost. So Urban Meyer was always a great guy to me because, 'Ooh, we won again', so that's all good. We had a tremendous relationship, and I have a lot of respect for him."
A tremendous relationship?
So that probably means there will be no upcoming public comments from a Wisconsin coach about illegal recruiting tactics by Meyer that will later have to be apologized for?
And no off-the-cuff shots at a particular program in Columbus about how Wisconsin does it the right way?
This is going to take some getting used to.
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