A little less than three weeks after he announced he would remain at Utah State, Gary Andersen has accepted an offer to become the new coach at the University of Wisconsin, The Salt Lake Tribune confirmed late Tuesday.
A source close to Andersen said some details remained to be worked out: “It’s not a done deal,” the source cautioned. But The Tribune has learned that Andersen began calling his players Tuesday night, telling them he had accepted the job.
A source close to the USU athletic department said Andersen is expected to take most, if not all of his coaching staff with him to Madison. That explains in part why Aggie offensive coordinator Matt Wells and defensive coordinator Dave Aranda acknowledged Monday they had turned down jobs at North Carolina State and Texas Tech, respectively. Wells also could become a candidate to succeed Andersen in Logan.
The Wisconsin State Journal first reported Tuesday that Andersen had interviewed for the Badgers job — left vacant when Bret Bielema left for Arkansas. Andersen’s 2012 résumé — he led the Aggies to the school’s first-ever 11-win season, a conference championship and a bowl victory over Toledo — certainly captured Wisconsin’s attention.
The in-person audition didn’t go badly either. The Aggies were just a missed field goal away from toppling the Rose Bowl-bound Badgers in Madison earlier this season, making quite an impression in a 16-14 loss.
Andersen has led nothing less than a complete program overhaul at Utah State, turning a one-win team into this year’s Western Athletic Conference champions. With a 41-15 win over Toledo in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl on Saturday, Andersen led the Aggies to their first bowl win since 1993.
After his name surfaced in connection with job vacancies at Kentucky, California and Colorado, Andersen announced on Nov. 30 he would be staying in Logan through a school news release and a series of interviews and statements.
“At the end of the day, Logan is where we need to be,” said Andersen, who also signed a contract extension earlier this season. “The kids, the administration — we had too much momentum going for me to leave.”
Utah State athletic director Scott Barnes did not immediately return phone messages seeking comment Tuesday night.
Yet, Andersen is undoubtedly a coach on the rise. His USU teams went a 18-8 over the last two seasons with a pair of berths to the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.
This year, the Aggies earned their first outright conference championship since 1936, a burst of success for a program that had won nine games in the previous four years. Utah State was ranked No. 18 in the latest Associated Press poll, and a number of starters are slated to return for the program’s first season in the Mountain West Conference.