Strong Utah State Season Gives Gary Andersen Wisconsin Head Coaching Job
As a college football fan, how excited would you be to see your team hire a coach with a 30-31 record? Probably not that enthusiastic. But then, what about a coach that put together an 11-2 season with a conference title and a bowl victory? A season where the two losses came by total of five points on the road to winning teams. That would certainly change your perspective. One thing is for certain. Wisconsin hired Gary Andersen because of one outstanding season and not the five previous where his teams went 19-29.
Andersen's first go-around as a head coach lasted just one year. It was way back in 2003 at Southern Utah. Andersen went 4-7 following a coach that had gone 1-10. But he left the FCS school and took the same job he held previously as defensive line coach at Utah.
After four seasons as a defensive coordinator at Utah that included a 13-0 season in 2008, Andersen took over coaching duties at Utah State in 2009. His first season saw the team go 4-8 which was one game better than the 3-9 record the team had the year before (though it had an identical 3-5 conference record). The team went 4-8 the following year (2010) with a 2-6 conference record. His third season (2011) saw the team go 7-6 with a 5-2 record and a loss in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. It was his fourth year where things came together and his team went 11-2.
It's worth noting that his improvements coincided with some changes in the Western Athletic Conference membership. Boise State's last season in the WAC was 2010. Fresno State, Nevada, and Hawaii all left the WAC after 2011. The conference added Texas State and UT-San Antonio in 2012 as replacements. So the improvement by Utah State might be at least partly explained by the weaker competition in the conference. His teams lost every game they played against Boise State and Fresno State and managed only one win apiece against Nevada and Hawaii.
Reviewing his resume tells you a few things. First, Andersen's team have shown improvements in his past head coaching stints though in each case it started with a losing team not losing quite as often. Next, he didn't necessarily overtake all of the competition in building his program. Rather, he no longer faced the top competition. Still, Wisconsin could do a lot worse. They just have to hope the 2012 season wasn't a mirage.