Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen reflects on decision to leave Utah State, his new life in the Midwest
Andersen: No, it's really not. Kids are kids. There's tweaks to every recruiting plan, but the familiarities (are there) between the way coach Mac (Ron McBride) built Utah so many years ago and what we really tried to do. That was our blueprint at Utah State and it's the blueprint that coach Alvarez puts at the University of Wisconsin — recruit in-state; do a great job in your area; (and) make sure that you have a quality walk-on program.There's not very many programs in the country where you can go to where that's the core, that's the base of the football program, and it truly is at Wisconsin. All those things — when I went through the interviewing process — was why I knew it was the place I was supposed to go.
Q: Discuss life in the Big Ten and competing against Ohio State coach Urban Meyer, your former boss at Utah.
Andersen: It'll be fun. It's a big-time conference. Every conference has great teams and every conference has teams that are on the rise. It's a very competitive situation that we're in week in and week out. It's a very physical brand of football, without question, but it's amazing when you sit back and watch the film. What I saw was there's every type of offense other than Air Force's triple-option stuff that you have to be able to defend. So... it's a spread conference; it's a smash-mouth conference. There's big, powerful kids in the conference week in and week out and it's a high level of football. Football is very, very important there — just like it is in the state of Utah. But it's a tremendous conference. I think it's continuing to grow and get better every single year. You've got to be on your toes every week to have an opportunity to win. Like I always say, it's tough to win Division I football games and now in the Big Ten Conference that will be no different. It's going to be very difficult to win every week.
Q: Have you had a chance to speak with coach Meyer since taking the job at Wisconsin?
Andersen: We talk. Actually whenever we get a chance to go to any Big Ten meetings we try to maybe go to lunch or dinner and sit down and talk about things a little bit. We still talk quite a bit. I think it's a very good friendship. We both have great respect for each other and it's great to be able to kind of sit back and not talk to him about football stuff, which is nice. I do the same thing with Kyle (Whittingham). We don't always have to sit there and talk about football. We can just talk how friends talk.
Q: Will you continue to keep an eye on the Utes and Aggies?
Andersen: No question. Stacey (Andersen's wife) is all set. I think she's bought about 15 extra tickets for that Utah State-Utah game, that first one out. It's on Thursday (Aug. 29), so obviously she'll be down here to be able to see that and it's going to be crazy. She's back and forth quite a bit. She'll rack up those frequent flier miles here. But that's a huge first game of the year for Utah and for Utah State. It was a great battle last year and I'm sure it will be again. But I'll watch those teams very closely. I love the kids. Obviously at Utah State, I still stay in close contact with those young men and know so many of the coaches on both staffs. So they're very close to my heart.
Q: What are your thoughts on playing BYU on Nov. 9 at Camp Randall Stadium?
Andersen: I was surprised when I looked down and saw them on the schedule again. It was like, 'Holy Cow, here we go.' So the Cougars show up again. That's obviously way down the line, but we such tremendous respect on our staff for BYU. A lot of people may not know how good of a team they are but we surely do and who they can play. Just flip on the Notre Dame game last year and see what they did and how many games they were right there — tough-minded and very well-coached, great kids on the team. I love those kids on the team down there and the way they play. I don't know a lot of them personally, but the mutual respect you get when you compete against BYU — it's a special, special group of kids and that will be a big game for us.
Q: Is it surreal coaching at a place where Utah State suffered a heartbreaking 16-14 setback last season, nearly upsetting the Badgers?
Andersen: When you walk back into a lot of those situations, especially how that game went down — myself on the 19-yard line on the right hash — we've talked a few times to each other. You walk in to do some interviews and things in the visiting locker room and it takes you back. But it's just a crazy world. Again, I'm very lucky and blessed to be where I am. It's a tremendous place and I was at a tremendous place, too. I want everyone to truly understand that and know that. I loved my time at Utah State and I love my time now at Wisconsin. Not everybody can understand which decisions you make in life but you do it how you're supposed to do it, for me, and that's how I made the decision.
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