LOGAN — After being hired as the new head coach at Utah State four years ago, Gary Andersen turned in his Utah Ute red, put on his Aggie hat and talked about how good he looked in blue.
Three weeks ago, Andersen issued a press release and also joined our radio show, "Gunther and Graham," on 1320 KFAN to profess his recommitment, excitement and love for his Utah State Aggies. This was after he had been pursued by Kentucky, California and Colorado for their vacant head coach openings. At the time he shunned millions of dollars to remain at the school he built into a Top 25 program in just four short years.
Today he is in Madison, Wis., signing a five-year deal that will pay him on average $2 million per season, according to my sources. Then Friday, at his introductory press conference, he’ll be professing his commitment, excitement and love for his Badgers. He may also talk about how good he looks in “Big Red.”
Is this a bitter pill to swallow for Utah State fans? Sure. Should they be angry and resentful? Heck no. Welcome to the world of college football, my friends. It’s a world in which coaches preach loyalty and the importance of putting the team before oneself. Then three weeks later those same coaches are booking it to a higher-profile job with triple the pay while the players and fans feel like they are left empty-handed.
But for Utah State fans that is far from the case.
I don’t blame Andersen one bit for taking off to Wisconsin. Unlike the previous schools that pursued him, this is a marquee job at an outstanding program in a legendary conference, with a support system and structure that will allow him to compete for Big Ten titles, Rose Bowl opportunities and even national championships. It would have been absolutely crazy for him to not to take that job.
As for the press release he issued, I fully believe he had every intention of staying another year at Utah State — at that time. Remember, that was released a day before Brett Bielema left for more money at Arkansas that created the opening at Wisconsin in the first place. More than anything for Utah State, it was just a case of bad timing and luck.
Bad luck is something the Utah State football faithful are far too familiar with. That and a combination of awful coaching hires turned their program into a laughing stock for years. It took a special coach like Andersen — with a specific vision, road map and willpower — to make this school respectable on the field again. Aggie fans shouldn’t be angry or hurt. They should honestly celebrate him for resurrecting Utah State football from the dead.
What you now are left with is a school that just achieved a conference championship. It just won its first bowl game in 19 years. It's a squad that returns nine defensive starters along with a dynamic and talented quarterback in Chuckie Keeton. Aggie fans, you are far from empty-handed. You finally have a program that good quality coaches and players want to be a part of. A winning foundation has been laid that should continue for years.
But also realize who you are: a mid-level program, in a small town, with far less resources than the big boys. And as long as the football team continues to have some success, Andersen won’t be the last coach you lose. But that’s OK. It’s not a bad thing by any means. Every coach like Andersen who leaves for a bigger job means that much more publicity for the university, which in turn will continue to attract talent to the school. It also means you are the proverbial underdog and as the old saying goes, “everyone loves an underdog.”
So while Andersen dawns his Wisconsin attire, feel good about the state of your program. It means everyone these days is looking good in Aggie Blue.
Kevin Graham co-hosts Gunther and Graham 2pm-7pm on 1320 KFAN. He is also the founder and editor of www.SportsMashup.com. You can follow him on Twitter @KevinGrahamKFAN and like him on Facebook (SportsMashup).