Just six days after signing 30 new players, second-year head coach Gary Andersen confirmed that he took an interview for the Cleveland Browns’ head coaching job, though he later decided not to pursue the position.
The news broke after Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweeted Tuesday morning, “#Browns tried it all during coaching search. Source says they secretly interviewed #Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen, who got a raise on 1/25.”
While the tweet implies Andersen’s raise is connected to the interview, the $100,000 raise was previously scheduled in his contract and is a result of a one-year contract extension approved in January, according to the athletic department. Andersen is set to make $1.9 million in 2014.
Athletic Director Barry Alvarez and Andersen released statements Tuesday, although it is unclear when Andersen interviewed with Cleveland. The Browns eventually hired Mike Pettine, the defensive coordinator of the Buffalo Bills and former defensive coordinator for the New York Jets.
“I’m appreciative that Gary handled all of this the right way,” Alvarez said. “He alerted me immediately that he had been contacted by the Browns and affirmed his commitment to the University of Wisconsin. When you have talented coaches on your roster, there will always be people who want to talk to them. I think that Gary is one of the top coaches in the country and am glad that he is leading our team.”
Andersen coached at Utah State before taking over at Wisconsin, and turned the Aggies from a floundering team to an 11-game winner in 2012.
The Badgers finished 9-4 in Andersen’s first season at UW and ended the season with a loss to South Carolina in the Capitol One Bowl.
“Officials from the Cleveland Browns contacted me to talk about their head coaching vacancy,” Andersen said. “After our initial conversation, I decided not to pursue the position. I am committed to the University of Wisconsin and the student-athletes in our program. I love the city of Madison and am grateful for all the support from Badgers fans around the state and around the country.”
While Badger players found out about the interview today after the news broke, new recruit Austin Hudson isn’t going to overanalyze Andersen’s decision to stay.
“I’m gonna view him the same way he viewed me,” Hudson said. “As what he is, not what he’s labeled as.”
Nobody near the team was surprised when he was given thought as an NFL coach, according to Hudson, and the incident won’t change much in the way of team morale.
“He’s always been that caliber coach,” Hudson said. “Him interviewing doesn’t prove anything to me, it’s just reiterating what I’ve already known.”