After guiding Utah State to its best season in school history, Gary Andersen is leaving the Aggies for the University of Wisconsin — despite publicly declaring he was staying put.
The Wisconsin State Journal reported on its website that a “source close to the UW football program told the State Journal on Tuesday night it is a done deal: Andersen is UW athletic director Barry Alvarez’s choice to succeed Bret Bielema, who left to become the head coach at Arkansas.”
Attempts to reach USU Athletics Director Scott Barnes and Andersen on Tuesday night were unsuccessful.
The Wisconsin source also told the State Journal that Andersen was going to inform his staff of his decision to leave Tuesday night.
News of Andersen’s apparent departure came as a shock to many of the Aggie players.
Here’s what a few of them had to say via Twitter:
“Not gonna lie though it is a business man n u gotta think about ur family and life ! It doesn’t surprise me but he Told us he wasn’t leavin!” — senior wide receiver Matt Austin
“Its a Business everyone who plays this game knows that after highschool. Nothing but Love for Coach A he changed alot of peoples lives” — senior cornerback Terrence Alston
“Don’t know what to think anymore.... I was a believer #aggiefamily” — junior kicker Josh Thompson
“Wow... He jus gone leave like that smh” — freshman wide receiver Brandon Swindall
“Remember what we worked for and continue to work for. I Kno the situation is tough. If any of you need me let me know” — senior running back Kerwynn Williams
ESPN also reported Andersen, who led the Aggies to an 11-2 record and their first bowl win since 1993, will be hired as the Badgers’ next head coach.
However, Andersen probably won’t be introduced until Thursday due to the fact the earliest a state job in Wisconsin can be filled is two weeks after the job’s posting.
Andersen interviewed with Wisconsin on Monday.
Multiple sources told the State Journal early Tuesday that Andersen was Wisconsin’s leading candidate.
The 18th-ranked Aggies concluded their most successful season in school history with a 41-15 victory over Toledo in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl last Saturday at Bronco Stadium in Boise, Idaho.
USU went 6-0 in Western Athletic Conference play and captured its first outright league crown since 1936.
The Aggies gave the Badgers everything they could handle in the third game of the season as they lost 16-14 at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, Wis. USU missed a potential 37-yard game-winning field goal with six seconds remaining.
Colorado, Kentucky and California had also expressed interest in hiring the 48-year-old Andersen.
Andersen announced Nov. 30 in a press release that he would remain with the Aggies.
“I plan to remain the head football coach at Utah State University,” Andersen said in the release. “The interest I have received is a compliment to the quality young men in this program. Their hard work and dedication has built a culture that will enable us to continue to be successful at a very high level moving forward.”
Andersen even talked about staying during a press conference prior to the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.
“Opportunities are wonderful,” Andersen said. “It was very humbling the last three or four weeks to go through that process and be involved in jobs. You learn a lot, but you also learn a lot about yourself and where you want to be.
“You sit back and take a deep breath and know who you want to be around. I love the kids I get to coach here. ... I look them in the eye and I need to be where I’m at.”
In four years at USU, Andersen went 26-24, including 16-3 over the last 19 games.