February 11, 2014 at 9:03 pm

Wisconsin coach Gary Anderson says he turned down Cleveland Browns

Gary Andersen agreed to a five-year deal worth $10 million when he arrived from Utah State a year ago. (Scott Halleran / Getty Images)

Wisconsin said Tuesday that coach Gary Andersen was contacted by the Cleveland Browns for their coaching vacancy but decided not to pursue the position following a conversation with the NFL team.

The Browns hired coach Mike Pettine last month after a 25-day search. Pettine, Buffalo’s defensive coordinator, signed a five-year contract to replace Rob Chudzinski, fired after his lone season ended with a 4-12 record.

Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez said he was kept informed throughout the brief process.

“I’m appreciative that Gary handled all of this the right way. He alerted me immediately that he had been contacted by the Browns and affirmed his commitment to the University of Wisconsin,” Alvarez said in a statement.

“When you have talented coaches on your roster, there will always be people who want to talk to them,” Alvarez said.

Andersen’s first year in Madison in 2013 was largely considered a success following a 9-4 season. Andersen agreed to a five-year deal worth $10 million with Wisconsin following a successful four-year stint at Utah State.

He made $1.8 million in 2013, and the contract called for $100,000 raises each of the next four years. The school recently extended his contract by a year, again calling for a $100,000 raise in the new final year.

A person familiar with the conversation told The Associated Press that the Browns initiated contact, and that the sides met for a couple hours while Andersen was on the road recruiting. The person requested anonymity because there was no permission to release details about the meeting beyond the athletic department statements Tuesday.

The Browns had asked Andersen to come to them, but the coach told the team he could not because he was under contract, the person said. Cleveland was told the next day that Andersen was not interested.

Andersen replaced Bret Bielema, who left toward the end of his seventh season at Wisconsin in December 2012 to take the same job at Arkansas. The way Bielema departed — in a surprise move after the Big Ten championship game and before the Badgers’ appearance in a third straight Rose Bowl, remains a sore topic with some Wisconsin fans.

Wisconsin announced its 25-member recruiting class of 2014 last week, which presumably would have come weeks after the conversation with the Browns. Andersen thanked his coaching staff, their families and Wisconsin support personnel for helping to piece together the class ranked about 30th in the country by recruiting services.

“So our thanks goes out to all of them for all they do for us and the ability we have to be able to show this wonderful school that we’re all very lucky to be part of it at (the) University of Wisconsin,” Andersen said.