Nebraska surprised everybody in the college football world when it hired Oregon State's Mike Riley to replace Bo Pelini.
Oregon State might have just one-upped the Huskers in the surprise department by plucking Wisconsin head coach Gary Andersen to replace Riley on Wednesday.
"First and foremost I want to thank Coach (Barry) Alvarez for the opportunity to coach at the University of Wisconsin," Andersen said in a statement. "I also want to thank my staff and the people at UW. We worked very hard together and accomplished some great things. I had the opportunity to meet and coach some great young men and I look forward to watching them as they continue their careers and move through life."
Andersen leaves the Badgers after just two seasons in Madison, leading the team to a Big Ten West title and league championship game appearance in 2014.
A Utah native, Andersen, 50, has spent most of his career out West, but the departure of the veteran coach for a program of lesser-known stature still sent ripples throughout the coaching community. Andersen was a former defensive coordinator at Utah for Urban Meyer and later a successful head coach at Utah State, guiding the Aggies to their first season of double-digit wins in school history.
Believed to be at issue for Andersen is assistant coach pay and facilities. Flush with Pac-12 television revenue, Oregon State probably was able to promise to rectify that, even if Riley's previous staff was among the lowest-paid in the league. In addition to hiring Andersen, the Beavers also announced a $42 million renovation of their football facilities that was previously in the works.
"I began working to find a new head coach as soon as I spoke with Gary this morning," athletic director Barry Alvarez said. "My first concern is taking care of the players on the current team, especially the senior class, and ensuring that their bowl experience is a memorable one. I will find a head coach to uphold the great tradition at Wisconsin, someone who is committed to excellence both on and off the field."
Wisconsin is set to play Auburn in the Outback Bowl on New Year's Day. The last time Alvarez replaced a head coach, after Bret Bielema bolted to Arkansas, the Badgers' legend coached the team in their bowl game, something junior fullback Derek Watt might have been alluding to in a tweet.
Pitt coach Paul Chryst, Boston College coach Steve Addazio, Utah State coach Matt Wells and former Nebraska coach Bo Pelini could be candidates for the opening.
Badgers star Melvin Gordon said Wednesday that he was "shocked" by Andersen's departure, adding, "I didn't see it coming." His reaction was more short and to the point on Twitter.