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12/24/2012: State of the Big Ten, Volume 79 (premium)

Posted on 24. Dec, 2012 by in Iowa Basketball, Iowa Football


Every Monday, we will be running a weekly series titled “State of the Big Ten,” which will be made available to all members of This series of columns will focus on one major headline regarding the conference and go in-depth on the subject at hand.

By Brendan Stiles

Last week, Wisconsin named Gary Andersen its new football coach, replacing Bret Bielema after he bolted to fill the coaching vacancy at Arkansas. Andersen had been the head coach at Utah State for the last four years and guided the Aggies to an 11-2 record, a WAC championship and a 41-15 win over Toledo in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl this year.

One of those two losses, oddly enough, came at the hands of the Badgers back in September. Wisconsin won the game 17-16, but Utah State had a chance to win it with a field goal that ended up missing the uprights altogether in the waning moments.

Given what Andersen accomplished at Utah State, many national pundits have viewed this as “a home run hire” for Wisconsin athletics director Barry Alvarez. That remains to be seen. But in terms of how the timeline unfolded, this may have worked out extremely well for the Badgers.

Alvarez is serving as the team’s interim coach for the Rose Bowl next week, which looked inevitable from the moment it was announced Bielema left. But here’s what warrants reiteration: Andersen has already coached Utah State to a bowl win this month. He took the Wisconsin job after seeing the remainder of his team’s season through first.

For anyone wondering why that might be significant, think about recruiting. Yes, this is currently a dead period in the sense that coaches aren’t allowed to visit recruits who have committed to their programs. With this coaching transition, high-school seniors who have already committed to Wisconsin are going to want to meet Andersen and get to know him before deciding whether to stay on board or de-commit and look elsewhere.

Because Alvarez is overseeing all of the Rose Bowl preparations, all Andersen has to be worrying about right now is retaining Wisconsin’s 2013 recruiting class. That’s it. He can’t visit any of the Badgers’ commits, but he was cleared by the NCAA after taking to job to have contact via telephone with these kids, which makes complete sense.

The coaching search reached a point where Alvarez had to act, especially since Andersen wound up being his guy. Sure, this could have dragged on beyond New Year’s Day, but that would’ve been detrimental for Wisconsin. That’s why even though Darrell Hazell is still coaching Kent State in its upcoming bowl game, Purdue acted when it did on hiring him as its new head coach. If Purdue had waited for Kent State’s season to end, someone else would’ve lured Hazell away.

Andersen is also someone who was a hot commodity, but because his entire coaching career had pretty much been in the state of Utah, the odds of him leaving looked slim prior to Wisconsin’s vacancy coming about.

In terms of its short-term future, Wisconsin made a bold move that looks like it could work out well. The questions about the program long-term were going to be there no matter what, at least as long as Alvarez was the AD. But as far as 2013 is concerned, the way this has been handled is continuing to be handled is boding well for the Badgers.

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