Please raise your hand if you thought for one second that Oregon State would replace Mike Riley with Gary Andersen. Anyone?
Put your hand down GN you lying liar.
OK, so we've established that Minnesota fans (and Wisconsin fans, and Oregon State fans...heck EVERYONE) was completely shocked when this happened. The initial reaction from Minnesota fans was exactly what you'd expect.
HAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!— Ben Dawson (@BenjaminJDawson) December 10, 2014
No, I mean it. HAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!— Ben Dawson (@BenjaminJDawson) December 10, 2014
That's exactly the right reaction. And it wasn't just Minnesota fans who enjoyed the news.
#Wisconsin has been pantsed by two OSU's in less than a week. This is phenomenal.— Ted Glover (@purplebuckeye) December 11, 2014
Last night was glorious and nothing can take it away. But as turn the page and enter the day after Barry was punked for a second time, I expect we'll start to hear a lot more pushback to our schadenfreude. Badger fans will have moved past shock and into anger (ok, the UW rubes were already at anger so they'll move to SUPER DUPER ANGRY) and soon we'll hear why we're all trolls and fools for finding this funny or why this really isn't a big deal and that Wisconsin will just reload at the head coaching position. I'm here to lay out a case for why you can love this outcome and rationally defend your enjoyment.
One warning for you. The words "reasonable fashion" mean that I'm about to utter some semi to mostly complimentary things about Wisconsin to set the context of my thoughts. This is a necessary evil in order to deliver the later logic bombs more accurately. Don't worry, I still HATE as much as anyone.
Things A Rational Person Can Admit About UW Football
- The Wisconsin job isn't a terrible job.
- There are many good reasons why it would be an attractive job, including recent facilities projects, a recent winning history, and a P5 Conference spot in a division without a current juggernaut like Ohio State.
- Wisconsin has been in that 2nd tier of teams in the college pecking order in recent decades. Not elite, but consistently good to very good.
I feel...unclean. But it was necessary to make a larger point. Let's get to why we should all enjoy the heck out this.
Coaching Searches = Crapshoot
You don't want to have to hire a new coach. This is a pretty simple concept, but it is so easily overlooked in the rush to "find someone better." It's easy for fans of the program doing the hunting to forget that nothing is guaranteed. "But Wisconsin is in a better spot than most teams are in a coaching search!" I've heard Badger fans cry. And I'd agree that it's better to search for a coach coming off a division title season than search for a coach coming off another tire fire season. But that doesn't change the fact that you don't know who you're going to get.
Nebraska came into their search with unlimited cash and big dreams of winning 11+ games a season. They got Mike Riley from Oregon. Florida had a sure fire hire with Will Mushamp a few years ago. They just overpaid for an unproven hotshot HC from a non-Power 5 conference after firing their "sure thing" because he stunk. There are 3 basic outcomes for a coaching search for a program at Wisconsin's level: 1) hire a guy who makes you elite, 2) hire a guy who keeps you stable, 3) hire a guy who makes you worse. History proves that you're more likely to get #2/#3 than #1.
This fact is especially true in the current search environment. Again, look at what the other "big name" schools are ending up with despite a willingness to spend whatever it takes, facilities that put Wisconsin's to shame, and a winning history that surpasses UW's. There is no "sure fire" hire for Wisconsin, even if they are just trying to maintain the success they've already had. And we have no idea what two successful coaches in a row bolting from Madison with no warning will do to the perception of the job. Are some of the "gettable" coaches willing to pass based on this factor? Will the concerns about UW's willingness to pay coaching staffs hurt? Will coaches from outside the program decide that working under Barry doesn't sound like a lot of fun? There are a lot of unknowns thanks to Gary Andersen and this search has the potential to get complicated.
This uncertainty has the potential to be very fun for anyone who isn't a fan of Wisconsin. Especially when you consider the scenarios.
UW Isn't Going To Hire A Home Run
What do I mean by this? As mentioned above for Wisconsin to end up with a home run hire they'll have to land a guy who will make them elite. Anything else is simply a continuation of the overall good to very good baseline the program has been operating under pretty much since Barry. Here's the thing, an elite level hire is hard to pull off. It's REALLY hard to execute. That's why it doesn't happen that often. This is especially for a program that has some of the disadvantages that Wisconsin does (local recruiting territory, apparent aversion to paying assistants/a budget that isn't completely unlimited, not a historic helmet school, etc). I'd argue that the odds of Wisconsin pulling off a home run hire are slim. So if we don't have to legitimately worry about Wisconsin getting significantly better with this search, where does that put us?
The "Worst Case" Scenario
Wisconsin keeps on doing what they've been doing under whoever they hire. Consistent winner of 9 games, sometimes better than that, consistent division performances with occasional letdown games or seasons, typically in the mix for a B1G title. Is that what I or any other Minnesota fan wants? Of course not. I want them to hire a coach whose incompetence burns the program to the ground and salts the Badger Football earth. But I recognize that there's a good chance they hire a decent coach who can follow the Wisconsin formula and keep their program stable. I guarantee that you'll have Badger fans saying this is why we shouldn't be so excited about Gary Andersen leaving. I'm also here to tell you that line of thinking makes no sense.
Why is this a reason we can't enjoy the mess Barry is in? This outcome is status quo. It's where the Badgers were coming into next season. On the whole, it doesn't change the relative stature of Wisconsin compared to Minnesota nor does it make things more difficult for the Gophers on the whole. While there were certainly signs that Gary Andersen might falter, it was not a certainty or even a likelihood yet and for the sake of this argument I'm willing to say he would have kept things going. But so what?
We talked about this after the Wisconsin game. Minnesota has significantly closed the post-Brew gap between the Minnesota and Wisconsin and the Gophers are at the point where beating an above average/good Wisconsin team would not be an immense upset, even on the road. But no one was going to hand the Axe to Kill and his team, they were going to have to earn it by beating a pretty good Wisconsin team next year.
Hiring a guy who maintains Wisconsin's level of overall success doesn't change the rivalry. If that happens Minnesota is still getting better. If that happens the Gophers still have to earn that next win over a good Wisconsin team.
Pardon me if that thought doesn't leave me sad, gloomy, or fearful of this coaching search.
Wisconsin Could Get Worse
So if a home run is unlikely, the status quo shouldn't scare any Minnesota or Big Ten fan, and coaching searches are a crapshoot we're left with the best outcome of all...Barry screws up this hire and the UW program falls like Iowa has fallen (or worse). I don't think I need to explain why fans from outside the Motion W bubble look upon this option with glee. So I won't.
Just picture it and smile.
Badger Fans Have To Face Facts
For me though, the primary reason to enjoy this coaching search has already happened. We've all listened to Badger fans have declare how Wisconsin Football is no longer just another program. That the UW program is a destination, that they've arrived, and that that is where they'll always stay. The increase in arrogance in the UW fanbase has been noticeable even to Michigan fans. So no matter what happens with the actual hire, this whole process is already a win in my book because arrogant Wisconsin Badger fans have to face a truth they've ignored for years...UW is not a destination job.
Alvarez: "the last two coaches have proven that. (That Wisconsin is no longer a destination job)"— David Ade (@DavidAdeCBS58) December 10, 2014
That's not something Minnesota fans are saying. That's not something other Big Ten fans are saying. That's not something the national media is saying. It's what their own anointed football deity, Saint Barry Alvarez is saying.
It's delicious to witness.
Wrapping Up The Schadenfreude
To pre-empt the inevitable comments let me reiterate a few things:
- I'm not saying this mean Wisconsin sucks
- I'm not saying Wisconsin can't keep being as good as they've been
- I'm not predicting UW's fall into mediocrity or worse
I'm simply saying the one outcome I would strongly dislike (a home run hire) is unlikely and my favorite outcome (arrogant Badger fans getting smacked in the face by reality) has already happened. As a result, the rest of this coaching search will at worst make shrug and at best will make me very, very happy.
Something tells me I'm not alone.