Wisconsin welcomed it's 29th football head coach to the fold as Gary Andersen was formally introduced to the public at a press conference on Friday. It became abundantly clear on Friday that coach Andersen will be a players coach and for him "it's all about the kids." Thankfully at Wisconsin it has been all about the kids since the days of Barry Alvarez on the sidelines, so Andersen walks into a situation that won't need to be turned around 180 degrees.
What does "it's all about the kids" mean? For Gary Andersen it means getting things done academically, socially, and on the football field.
"I sure hope my stamp at the end of the day is to be on a football field that's physical, tough minded, plays aggressive, plays the game the right way, is respected by their opponents, solid in all three phases, has one of the best graduation rates in the country," said coach Andersen during the press conference. "That's what I expect. And socially young men that turn themselves from young men into men as they go through the program."
Andersen stated his goal was to have a team that had as close as possible or over a 3.0 GPA and that it would also be the job of his assistant coaches to help their student-athletes in any way possible academically first.
In this offseason it didn't take coach Andersen long to figure out this was the job he wanted all along, heck he didn't even hesitate at the offer apparently.
'When I had the opportunity to start looking into this job, it didn't take me long," said coach Andersen. "When coach offered me the job, I think I just said yes. I didn't ask any questions. Just held my hand in the air and was ready to go."
One other thing that was made clear was that Alvarez and Andersen saw a lot of one another in each other. Coach Alvarez mentioned that fact more than one time and it became clear to him following their initial conversations.
"During the interview process, Walter Dickey and Sean Frazier were with me, and as we left, Walter Dickey made the comment, if I would have had a blindfold on, I would have thought that was you that was answering the questions," said Alvarez. "That's how our philosophies and our beliefs have meshed. They're very similar."
Of course with any new coach there are questions a plenty and some of the biggest out there were about his staff and recruiting. Coach Andersen made it clear from his opening statement what his philosophy would be as he said his second priority is to reach out to the committed players and then hit the ground running on the recruiting trail by reaching out to the high school coaches in Wisconsin first.
Andersen also made it clear that his staff will be a mix of people coming with him, keeping some Wisconsin staff members, and some new faces overall.
"I'm highly interested in retaining coaches on this staff," said Andersen. "Why wouldn't I be? I'd be crazy not to be."
To that point he made it clear that one person will be very, very important in making sure Wisconsin is set up correctly in recruiting and in having a continuity to the staff.
"There's coaches on the staff — Ben Strickland is – he's going to stay," Andersen said addressing the recruiting issues. "I want him here in the worst way, and it's important for me to have him on the staff. Ben has shown me how important he is, and he is Wisconsin, if you will."
While today was all about Gary Andersen one thing that coach Andersen wanted to make sure of was that the next few weeks aren't about him, but about going to Pasadena and winning a Rose Bowl for the kids that are on this team now.
"The last thing they need from me is to hang around with Coach Alvarez and the staff," Andersen said. "The young men need to put themselves in a position to go win the Rose Bowl. I'm going to be a fly on the wall and evaluate and watch the practices as best I can. I just want to be there for the young men and start the relationship."
It make take some time for Andersen and his family to transition into the traditions of the Wisconsin program, but one thing was clear above all else on Friday morning inside the Nicholas-Johnson Pavilion and that was that coach Andersen understands what it takes to win at Wisconsin and is willing to work to get it done the right way.