First-year Wisconsin football head coach Gary Andersen wasted little time in addressing the obvious Monday at his first major press conference of the spring season.
After the surprising departure for Oklahoma last week by new hire Jay Boulware, Andersen made clear right away where to place the blame for the events that transpired with the team less than a week away from its first spring practice.
“Ultimately, I hired him. It’s my fault,” Andersen said in the press conference. “It’s upsetting, and I brought the wrong guy in here.
“It’s my responsibility to get the right coaches in here. I don’t like the timing of it. I don’t like the situation that we’re in at all, but we’ll get a coach in here that’s as excited about Wisconsin football and wants to be here in the worst way, and he’ll do a tremendous job. We’ll rebound very quickly.”
Boulware was set to not only head the tight ends job, a group that many felt underperformed last season, but to take over as the special teams coordinator for the Badgers. During his previous time in the same positions at Auburn, Boulware developed a reputation for producing special teams units that ranked in the top four of the SEC.
Oklahoma’s hire of the assistant filled the last gap for head coach Bob Stoops on his staff. After losing three assistants from a year ago, Stoops hired Boulware to take the same responsibilities he would have had at Wisconsin.
Andersen admitted the departure of the assistant coach caught him completely by surprise, but said his hire to replace Boulware will have the same responsibilities: not just coaching the tight ends, but overseeing the special teams. However, it remains to be seen if the Badgers will find another coach who was the kind of recruiter Boulware was — with extensive ties in southern states like Texas, a geographic area where the team has struggled to sign top-level talent.
With five coaches on the defensive side of the ball about to teach new schemes, Andersen remains adamant whoever his new tight ends hire is — which was announced Tuesday night to be former California assistant coach Jeff Genyk — will take over the special teams duties as well, even though he has a talented special teams coach already in the ranks of Bill Busch, one of the Badgers’ current secondary coaches.
“He will have a lot of experience, and he’ll be a tremendous recruiter,” Andersen said of his future tight ends and special teams coach. “And he’ll care about the kids. I expect the timing of that to take place as soon as I can get it through human relations the right way.”
Boulware is just the latest in a line of departures that has now stretched over the course of three offseasons for Wisconsin. Under former head coach Bret Bielema, the Badgers lost almost the entirety of their offensive coaching staff from 2011 heading into 2012. After the head coach himself left just days after the Big Ten Championship Game this past year, all but two Wisconsin assistant coaches left for other jobs, some for jobs with Bielema at Arkansas.
According to Andersen, departures like Boulware’s are just part of college football, but it does not mean he is happy about the way everything went down.
“The timing of this was something I thought I had handled and I thought I had addressed throughout the hiring process,” Andersen said. “I don’t know how I would have stopped it or could have stopped it.”
For a coach trying to build a strong relationship between his players and the coaches and working to establish a sense of trust, the move was the first major setback to Andersen’s brief tenure.
“I failed the kids in this situation. That’s the bottom line,” Andersen said. “I just think that it’s important. We talked about building a family environment and getting the right guys in here. It’s part of the process, and there’s no one else to look at and say, well, why did you do this? Why did you do that? We’ll find the right guy here.”
There were no specifics as to what was said at the meeting when Boulware announced he was leaving, but Andersen did offer an example of what his response typically is during those kinds of situations.
“I’ll voice my opinion why I think you’re wrong and the direction that you’re heading. It may compromise the relationship between me and whoever, and I’m OK with that,” Andersen said. “I’m here for the University of Wisconsin. I’m here to make everybody proud of the football program on and off the field.
“Really the same thing I want to see from the football team is I want to see 15 consistent practices. That’s something we’re going to talk about time and time again. There’s going to be good days for the offense, bad days for the offense, vice versa with the defense, same thing with the special teams. But if we look at it and break it down, I want to see 15 consecutive consistent practices. That’s important for us.”