There's no doubt that this is where I'm supposed to be. —Gary Andersen
CORVALLIS, Ore. — Gary Andersen said his decision to leave Wisconsin after just two seasons for the job at Oregon State came down to fit.
"There's no doubt that this is where I'm supposed to be," Andersen said as he was introduced as the new head coach of the Beavers on Friday.
Andersen replaces Mike Riley, who surprisingly left Oregon State for Nebraska last week. It was equally surprising when Andersen told his team on Wednesday that he was leaving Wisconsin.
The Badgers have gone 10-3 this season and are headed to the Outback Bowl on Jan. 1 against Auburn. Wisconsin athletic director and former coach Barry Alvarez will lead the Badgers in their bowl game.
Alvarez has said he was taken aback by Andersen's decision. He said Andersen left for personal reasons, but also said Andersen had some issues with Wisconsin's admission standards and felt like it made recruiting more difficult.
"Barry Alvarez is a hall of fame coach and a hall of fame AD," Andersen said in response. "There's no ill feelings, there's no issues for me. I simply saw an opportunity at Oregon State."
Riley left the Pac-12's Beavers to accept the Nebraska job after the dismissal of Bo Pelini. Oregon State finished this season 5-7 and out of the postseason picture.
Riley was known for his pro-style offense, most recently utilizing the talents of prolific senior quarterback Sean Mannion. He also had a track record of producing successful NFL players.
Andersen, known as a hard-nosed coach, will shake things up, saying he'll introduce a "wide open offense that will play at pace" and stretch the field.
"It's a great move for my family for a lot of reasons. It gets us in a position where we're very comfortable. It goes back to fit," Andersen said. "I was at a great institution. I had an opportunity to coach some unbelievable young men the last two years, and the last four years prior to that. But I know, as I've gone through this for many years, that when you sit back and see from afar a program — the coaching world is not as big as you'd think it is — this was always a place where I thought, 'This fits us.'"
Players were already going home for the holiday break, so Andersen won't be able to meet with the entire team until the new year. But a few were still around for Andersen's introductory news conference, which featured members of the marching band and curious boosters.
Redshirt freshman receiver Jordan Villamin said any coach who wins 10 games in a season is doing something right.
"I'm a little sad because Riley left. But I'm not going to leave here," he said. "Football is football. New stuff is going in. It will be interesting to see what happens."
Andersen was 19-7 in his two seasons as Wisconsin's coach. He came to the Badgers from Utah State, where he spent four seasons. He also had a short stint as head coach at Southern Utah in 2003 before becoming an assistant at Utah. He's 49-38 overall as a head coach.
The Badgers had an up-and-down season, losing two of their first five games but recovering to win seven straight. But the season ended with a thud when the team was blown out by Ohio State 59-0 in the Big Ten championship game.
A highlight was the record-breaking performance of Melvin Gordon, who is one of the three finalists for the Heisman Trophy. Gordon leads the nation with 2,336 yards rushing and 179.7 yards per game.
Beavers athletic director Bob De Carolis said he had always held Andersen in high regard, and his name was one of the first that came to mind when Riley left. De Carolis reached out to Andersen's agent, and the two sides met. Both were sold.
"He is a great fit," De Carolis said. "A quality person, and he fits our values."
Andersen did raise some eyebrows when he said he needed to "get his ducks in a row." The reference to "ducks" never sits well with the Beavers because of that rival school to the south.
"What did I say?" he asked, then laughed: "Go Beavs!"
Riley was credited with turning around an Oregon State team that had 26 straight losing seasons when he first became head coach in 1997. He left for the San Diego Chargers in 1999, and Dennis Erickson coached the Beavers for four seasons from 1999-2002. Riley returned to Oregon State in 2003.
Riley took the Beavers to eight bowl appearances, compiling a 6-2 record.