Reports are coming out that Wisconsin has moved to hire Utah State's Gary Andersen as their next head coach. As Madison.com reported, the Aggies coach was a done deal Tuesday evening—Andersen is Wisconsin bound.
Andersen is a good hire, one of the better candidates out there on the market for a school like Wisconsin to grab. Personally, I'm a huge fan of his work on the defensive side of the ball, and given schools pushing to hire offensive firepower, it is nice to see a squad go the defensive route.
However, Andersen in Madison is going to be an interesting experiment to watch. He's not part of the Bucky family, and at Wisconsin—a very unique job—that is one of the aspects that will play an interesting role going forward.
Full disclosure: Ordinarily I hate "family" hires. The link to the school often creates some odd dynamic where fans feel they are owed some increased loyalty from a guy who is just there to do a job. The coach is also under increased pressure as his alma mater, or the school he's worked at for a decade, is counting on him for success.
Marriages between members of the family often end in ugly fashion, to say the least.
Enter Wisconsin, a school in a unique position. They are set to go to their third straight Rose Bowl and have become one of the teams synonymous with success in recent years. They pound the ball, they play good defense and they take pride in physical football.
In that vein, Bryan Fischer of the Pac-12 Network makes a good point about Andersen being a good fit:
If it does come to Gary Andersen at Wisconsin, that's a terrific hire. Great fit.
— Bryan Fischer (@BryanDFischer) December 19, 2012
Except the Wisconsin job is so much more than just X's and O's. Starting with the building of the program by Barry Alvarez and continuing with Bret Bielema, there existed a remarkable uniqueness in Madison.
From the incredibly Midwestern offensive lineman pipeline to the dipping into Florida to grab some speed from guys who were passed over by some SEC and ACC schools, the school has a formula that works. Now, by bringing in Andersen, the process will be in flux.
Each coach comes with their own strategy, their own philosophy and their own approach to things on and off the field. Bret Bielema, an Alvarez assistant, spent a few years working the system, understanding how the success was constructed.
Now, Andersen enters as a guy who has found his own path to success at Utah State. He does not have the Midwest ties, and ultimately, this is an entirely new experience for the man who spent the bulk of his coaching career in Utah and Idaho.
Much like Bielema going from the North to the South becomes something to watch in the recruiting and competition game, the same can be said for Andersen as he starts out at Wisconsin. Andersen will be swimming in recruiting waters that are more fertile than the WAC, but he'll also be looking to beat out some true heavy-hitters.
His old boss Urban Meyer, Michigan's new coach Brady Hoke and Notre Dame's Brian Kelly are gunning for the elite talent. Throw in Mark Dantonio and Bo Pelini looking to grab what's left, and things are ultra-competitive in that area.
Without the ties to the area and ties to the program, it will be quite intriguing to see Andersen fight the uphill battle. One thing we will be watching is how Andersen builds his staff. Midwestern roots, ties and links to the Wisconsin tradition will come at a premium.
Unlike Ohio State (or Florida) when they hired Urban Meyer, or Michigan when they hired Brady Hoke, Wisconsin is not looking to tear everything down and rebuild something new. The Badgers have a formula that works. By going outside of the Alvarez-Bielema coaching tree, they have made sustaining that formula remarkably difficult.
That said, Andersen is a heck of a coach, and watching him adjust his style to fit Wisconsin's capabilities is going to be something to see. Sticking in the family made the most sense where sustaining success is concerned, but Barry Alvarez has got his guy, an outsider. We'll see if Andersen can keep the Rose Bowl train running in Madison.