Exclusive interview with Badgers head coach
MADISON - Badgers football season starts in three weeks with a new head coach.
Gary Andersen stepped into a delicate situation after Bret Bielema left. Now he's trying to put his own stamp on the program.
Andersen is running practice his way. He yells "go, go" as well as talks to players and laughs with them. His practices are shorter than Bret Bielema's and they start and end on time. He also has music playing, something that Bielema never did.
In the hallway near his office, Andersen explains two more ideas he brought from Utah State. One, a senior picture wall.
"These young men are the core of what we're doing in my opinion," said Andersen.
The second idea is action shots near each position coach's office. Inside his personal office, Andersen talks about his father, who meant a lot to him.
"The biggest thing in my office is this... the flag from his funeral, his dog tags," he said.
Andersen's father was in WWII and later spent his career at a Utah telephone company. His mother was an educator. They had four children but there was a big gap before Gary came along.
"I was the youngest by 12 years, not a mistake - they promised me it was planned," he said with a smile.
All jokes aside, Anderson said speaking at his dad's funeral was the hardest thing he's had to do in his life. He still consults with his father.
"At least every other day," he explained. "Usually while driving to work. It's very important to me."
Andersen is a father too. He and wife Stacy were 16 when they laid eyes on each other at a Salt Lake City restaurant.
"I was cooking hamburgers, she was frying fries," he remembered. "Been together ever since."
The couple had three sons but Andersen said it didn't come easily.
"It was awesome for us because Stacey had real struggles with miscarriages," he said. "So for us to finally have a baby was great."
Their oldest, Keegen, is still at Utah State but might come to Madison for grad school. As for their other sons, Hagen is doing some high school coaching and Chasen followed his dad and plans to play for the Badgers after a greyshirt year, which means he will join the team in January.
Right now, the Andersens are empty nesters.
"We've got the great danes with us, Aggie and Big Blue. It's a little different waking up and all of a sudden it's a cup of coffee and me and Stacey," he said.
It will be Anderson and 80,000 screaming fans at the home opener Aug. 31. His 87-year-old mother will be in the stands too. He admits there will be a lump in his throat.
Phil Andersen may not have lived to see his son coach at Wisconsin in person but Andersen believes he's wearing a Badgers sweatshirt somewhere in heaven.