Gary Anderson PantsOn a Tuesday morning just before he skipped town for Corvallis and the Oregon State job, Gary Anderson stopped at West Towne Mall to buy a pair of pants. I spotted him in the back racks of Eddie Bauer, where we were both hunting for a good deal on some wrinkle-free khakis. Surprisingly, he didn’t have a speck of UW apparel on his back. Out of respect for his time, I chose not to engage him in chit chat. But he broke the ice.


“Bargain hunter, eh?” I smiled and nodded. “You know,” he continued, “they’re running some pretty nice sales down in the other end of the mall. American Eagle. Banana Republic. Aeropostale. You should check it out.”

“Thanks, Coach, but I’m not much of a slim fit guy,” I replied, emphasizing the mismatch between those stores and my build.

“Listen, pants are pants, and as long as they look good after a three-hour flight, I don’t care about brand, style, size or fit. I just need some pants that can get the job done.” I thought about stepping from behind the rack to give him a better view of my thighs, but realized this is a man fully capable of sizing up elite athletes within mere seconds. Surely it was obvious that no part of me would ever fit comfortably into pants designed for 17 year-old boys with runaway metabolism. But sometimes, I suppose, you can’t see the forest for the trees.

Last Friday, Gary Anderson was introduced as the new head coach at Oregon State and all the talk was about fit. “It’s a great move for my family for a lot of reasons. It gets us in a position where we’re very comfortable. It goes back to fit.” He’s a west coast guy and has every right to live and work where he chooses. He’s also smart enough to understand that fit is not just a nice-to-have factor — it’s everything, in pants, in our careers, and in choosing a college.

Why fit is the only thing that matters

The University of Wisconsin-Madison is a highly-selective public research university. It’s our flagship institution, and a source of pride for many reasons. Cutting-edge research. Rock star professors who play in the academic stratosphere. Enviable location in a “best of everyone’s list” college town. What’s not to love?

We have a guy named Melvin who’s pretty special (sadly on his way out), a Frank who defies all stereotypes of big guys named Frank, a Bo who will always be our beau (couldn’t resist), and now our very own Paul is back where he belongs. Life as a Badger is good. Feel the love. Taste the brat.

But if UW has so much to offer, then why would Gary leave town so abruptly in his wrinkle-free khakis? The consensus points to three possible reasons: 1) assistant coaches aren’t paid enough; 2) Athletic Director Barry Alvarez is a tough boss; and 3) the University’s admissions standards prevent a coach from recruiting top talent. Oh, really? Well, I’d offer these thoughts: 1) compared to the rest of us they absolutely are paid well enough; 2) I’ve never worked for Barry, nor does he return my calls, so I can’t comment; 3) this is the University of Wisconsin-Madison, we publish admission data for all to see, so this shouldn’t have been a surprise to Anderson, his staff or his recruits.

At UW we like bright people. Our students, professors, staff, doctoral candidates, visiting faculty, and yes, student-athletes are a really, really smart bunch. Really. Really, Smart. (Where’s my thesaurus?) And we like it that way, because we are, after all, a university first and foremost and not a sports club that offers bachelors degrees. So if Gary couldn’t lure the the right kind of kids to the program, then he was wise to admit his shortcomings and move on. At least he was being honest with himself, and I do respect him for that.

In terms of fit, UW wasn’t right for Gary Anderson, and actually it’s not the best fit for a lot of students. Kids dream of going to Wisconsin…where Dad and Mom met, where someone’s always playing “Varsity”, and where Bucky is your freshman roommate. They rarely dream, however, of sitting in an Organic Chem lecture with 400 of their closest friends, or struggling to get the classes they need for their major, or being taught by TA’s with little classroom teaching experience. It’s one thing to “get in” to Wisconsin but a very different thing to “fit in”.

As a college planner and a proud alum I am neither for or against the University of Wisconsin. I am 100% committed to helping families make the best decisions possible with the best information available, in a process that is as inquisitive as it is data-driven. When I work with students to build their best fit colleges — a process I call “building the University of You” — what I’m really doing is helping a young mind ask and seek answers to a series of challenging questions:

Who are you now and who will you be in five years?

Who do you want to teach you?

How often do you plan to go home from college?

How do you define a “good school”?

Notice the word that pops up the most in these questions? It’s YOU. By definition, a great fit has to be not just about what they have to offer, but how it fits YOU.

College + YOU = great fit

There is absolutely nothing better in this world than being at Camp Randall on a gorgeous autumn afternoon, cheering for the Badgers as they pummel Ohio State and doing the Jump Around. But college is more about what you do on a series of weekday mornings, i.e. go to class and study, and weekday late-nights, i.e. write papers and study for tests, than those six magical Saturdays in the fall. The college you choose — the University of You — should be the one which provides YOU with the best environment and opportunities to grow, to mature, and to become gainfully employed in a field in which you’re passionate. All the other stuff has to be secondary to what goes on in the classroom and in the library and in your brain.

Seniors: Have you stopped to ask those critical questions and to examine how you fit into all of the schools on your list?

Juniors and Sophomores: Have you started your college search yet? Is there any reason why you wouldn’t want to begin now, and begin asking these questions that will lead you to the best options for you?

You can get started building the University of You now by contacting me for a free one-hour consultation. It’s that simple.

Let’s celebrate what we have — a top-notch university with so much to offer — and also recognize what we as individuals need to succeed. That may look like UW or it may look entirely different, but it’s absolutely worth the effort to find out. And students, wherever you choose to go, I think we can all agree on one thing: that someday the Badgers will have the opportunity to play Gary Anderson’s Beavers, in Corvallis (a.k.a. the non-Madison) or in the friendly confines of our beloved stadium and hometown. Either way, I’m sure we’ll beat the pants off them.