Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen unexpectedly stepped down Wednesday to become head coach at Oregon State.
Andersen, the Badgers’ coach for the past two seasons, informed the team of his decision Wednesday afternoon, the school said. Wisconsin finished 10-3 this season under Andersen and will play in the Outback Bowl against Auburn on Jan. 1.
Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez said the search for Andersen’s successor had already started. Alvarez said he would consider coaching the team in the bowl game himself after several players asked him, but had not made a final decision.
Alvarez said Andersen made the move for personal reasons.
Mike Riley left the Pac-12’s Beavers to accept the Nebraska job after the dismissal of Bo Pelini. Oregon State finished this season 5-7 and out of the postseason picture.
Oregon State will introduce Andersen as the 28th coach in team history at a news conference Friday. The announcement of his hiring came the same day Oregon State announced extensive renovation plans for its football facilities.
“We have hired the right coach,” Oregon State athletic director Bob De Carolis said. “We are investing in the new and expanded facilities he needs, including the $42 million makeover of the Valley Football Center we announced earlier today. We are ready to have Gary take us to the next level.”
Andersen was 19-7 in his two seasons as Wisconsin’s coach. He came to the Badgers from Utah State, where he spent four seasons. He also had a short stint as head coach at Southern Utah in 2003 before becoming an assistant at Utah. He’s 49-38 overall as a head coach.
Andersen thanked Wisconsin in a prepared statement.
“We worked very hard together and accomplished some great things,” Andersen said. “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.”
The Badgers had an inconsistent season, losing two of their first five games but recovering to win seven straight. But the season ended with a thud when the team was blown out by Ohio State 59-0 in the Big Ten championship game.
A highlight of the season was the record-breaking performance of Melvin Gordon, who is one of the three finalists for the Heisman Trophy.
Gordon leads the nation with 2,336 yards rushing and 179.7 yards per game. He set the single-game FBS rushing record with 408 yards against Nebraska, a record that only stood for a week.
Gordon went to Twitter with his reaction, simply posting “WOW!!!”
Alvarez, who coached the Badgers for 16 years and helped turn a moribund program into a consistent Big Ten contender, said he also was taken aback by Andersen’s announcement.
“My phone’s ringing off the hook already and word’s just leaking out,” Alvarez said at an afternoon news conference. “I feel very confident we’ll put a good coach in place. I told the kids that. Our program won’t take a step back. I know one thing. I’m not going to flinch.”
For Wisconsin, this is the second time in three years it has had its coach leave to take a job that seems like no more than a lateral move.
After the 2012 regular season, Bret Bielema, who was Alvarez’s hand-picked successor, bolted to Arkansas. Alvarez, who is now the athletic director, named himself the interim coach and coached the Badgers in the Rose Bowl.
Riley was credited with turning around an Oregon State team that had 26 straight losing seasons when he first became head coach in 1997. He left for the San Diego Chargers in 1999, and Dennis Erickson coached the Beavers for four seasons from 1999-2002. Riley returned to Oregon State in 2003.
Riley took the Beavers to eight bowl appearances, compiling a 6-2 record.
De Carolis called Riley’s replacement a man with “integrity and substance.”
“He has extensive West Coast ties and knows the landscape of the Pacific-12 Conference, having previously coached at Utah, a current conference member. He is part of the Urban Meyer coaching tree,” De Carolis said. “He and his staff will teach offense and defense, and life lessons about values and character. They will guide our student-athletes to success in life and careers upon leaving Oregon State.”
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