Andersen calls OSU, Corvallis the ‘right fit’
CORVALLIS — When the news hit last week that Nebraska had hired its new football coach, the coaches’ offices at Wisconsin started buzzing.
When Gary Andersen learned Nebraska’s choice was Mike Riley, Andersen suddenly was not very concerned with the Cornhuskers.
“I didn’t really care who Nebraska hired at that point,” Andersen said. “I was much more worried about who Oregon State was going to hire.”
It turned out to be Andersen himself, as he was formally introduced at a spectacle of a press conference Friday afternoon at the Valley Football Center following the Beavers’ surprising announcement of Andersen’s hiring two days prior.
Andersen has agreed to a six-year contract that starts with a base salary of $2.45 million, athletic director Bob De Carolis said.
Andersen’s salary will then increase by $100,000 each year. Additionally, bonuses will be awarded for winning eight, nine or 10 games in a season, winning the Civil War, reaching the Pac-12 title game and reaching the College Football Playoff or one of the “New Year’s Six” bowl games. Unlike former coach Mike Riley’s most recent contract, Andersen’s deal does not add a year each time he wins six games.
Andersen’s base salary is a raise from his total pay at Wisconsin ($2.285 million in 2014,according to USA Today’s database) and significantly larger than Riley’s expected salary of $1.6 million in 2015.
Andersen praised his previous stop, calling Wisconsin an “unbelievable institution” and Badgers legend Barry Alvarez a “Hall-of-Fame AD.” Yet Andersen continuously mentioned OSU and Corvallis as the right “fit” for him and his family, pointing to why the Beavers were able to lure away a proven coach from a perennial Big Ten contender.
“There’s fits in life and there’s opportunities that come your way,” Andersen said. “And when you see a fit and you look at it and you get that feeling ... there’s no doubt this is where I’m supposed to be.”
Friday marked Andersen’s second visit to Corvallis, following a 2007 loss to the Beavers as Utah’s defensive coordinator. But he was charmed by the town, comparing it to Logan, Utah, where he spent four seasons as Utah State’s head coach. So he always eyeballed the OSU job as one he’d consider if the opportunity ever came up. Ask his wife, Stacey, Andersen assured, and she’ll tell you the same thing.
There was just one problem, Andersen thought.
“I didn’t think Coach Riley would ever leave,” Andersen said.
Riley’s unexpected bolt for Lincoln changed all that. And it turns out De Carolis was already quite aware of Andersen, too.
De Carolis was first introduced to an Andersen squad in 2011, flipping on some Utah State film when the opportunity to schedule the Aggies arose.
“No way we’re scheduling these guys,” De Carolis thought.
Then this past fall, De Carolis saw Andersen’s Badgers beat Illinois in Madison while visiting his daughter, who is a Wisconsin student.
“It’s always in the back of your mind — the ‘short list’ type of thing,” De Carolis said. “You always kind of keep it there.”
When De Carolis began his search for the next Beavers coach late last week, he heard through contacts in the industry that Andersen might be looking for another coaching opportunity.
“Once we confirmed it,” De Carolis said, “We said, ‘We’re not gonna do any better than this. This guy’s good.’ Then it was, pedal-to-the-metal, ‘Let’s go get him.’”
De Carolis went through Andersen’s agent to set up a meeting for Tuesday. De Carolis and deputy athletic director Mark Massari flew out of Eugene to Rockford, Illinois, about 75 miles from Madison.
That Andersen made the 90-minute drive first showed Massari the coach was serious. Then Andersen whipped out a policy manual De Carolis gestured was about one or two inches thick. Ten or 12 pages alone, De Carolis estimated, lined out the expectations for Andersen’s players.
As Andersen walked De Carolis and Massari through the manual, it illustrated the coach was organized and driven. Andersen’s mixture of sense of humor and intensity also showed throughout the conversation.
“After about the first 15 minutes,” De Carolis said, “I was like, ‘OK, if I was 17, I’m gonna play for this dude.’ That’s how I felt. So it was a great feel right off the top.”
Andersen, meanwhile, did not feel the need to visit Corvallis, instead trusting De Carolis’ vision for the program and athletic department. When the offer was extended shortly after, Andersen accepted on the spot.
By Wednesday afternoon, OSU had announced its hire. Around 9:30 a.m. Friday, Andersen was sporting a black and gray Beavers jacket as he stepped off a private plane in Corvallis.
After a tour of OSU’s facilities, Andersen stood before a standing-room only crowd — complete with cheerleaders and band members — sporting an orange and black striped tie. After the press conference, various players politely hung around to meet their new coach. Later that day, Andersen was scheduled to meet with the assistant coaches Riley did not take to Nebraska and host a recruit on an official visit. Though Andersen hopes to assemble his staff soon, his first team meeting — where he’ll again pull out that policy manual for detailed read — will not take place until after winter break.
Andersen does not care if his move from Wisconsin to OSU makes little sense to outsiders.
This place and this program, as he stated throughout his first public appearance as the Beavers’ new coach, just fit.
“This is just where I believe I was told to go,” Andersen said before shrugging his shoulders. “A lot of people think that’s strange and weird, but that’s how I work.”