On the field and off, Utah State coach Gary Andersen is maintaining focus, preparing his No. 25 Aggies to face Idaho on Saturday before moving on to a bowl game.
The winds swirling around the program, however, are getting more intense by the day.
With USU close to pulling off perhaps the best season in its long history, Andersen’s name is popping up all over the country as a possible candidate for open jobs.
Already, Andersen has been linked with Kentucky, a Southeastern Conference program that has struggled in the SEC for years. And with Jeff Tedford being fired at California earlier this week, reports indicate Andersen is a candidate for that job as well.
Andersen declined comment when contacted, saying that his only worry is his team, Idaho and the remainder of the season.
The Salt Lake Tribune has learned that Kentucky has formally contacted Andersen and that the two sides have had preliminary talks. All indications are that Andersen is unlikely to be interested in the Wildcats, but would listen if Cal were seriously interested.
Andersen signed a contract extension with Utah State earlier this season. But his buyout would not be cost-prohibitive for a BCS program.
With Andersen in his fourth season with the Aggies, the Cal job is potentially appealing for several reasons.
For starters, a move to Berkeley could probably at least double his $600,000 annual salary at USU. Andersen would also be able to maintain and build upon his recruiting ties in the state. The Golden Bears’ best offensive player, Isi Sofele, is a former Cottonwood High student who Andersen recruited heavily when he first took the job in Logan.
Also, Andersen’s two staples at USU — an LDS missionary program and an emphasis on recruiting Polynesian players — would fit with California. And, of course, the Golden Bears are in the Pac-12, a bigger conference with a bigger budget and more exposure.
Andersen has long stated his desire to remain in Logan, and there are compelling reasons for him to do so. He is rooted in the community, with one son — Keegan — in his USU program as a sophomore tight end, and two more sons slated to enter the program next season.
On the field, Utah State is better than it has been in more than three decades And next season, with the bulk of the team returning, the Aggies have a chance to be nationally ranked and to compete for a title in their first season as a member of the Mountain West Conference.
Perhaps most importantly, Andersen has ultimate job security at Utah State. His new contract is for five seasons, and signs point toward Andersen obtaining an automatic rollover with that contract should he remain with the Aggies.
Idaho at Utah St.
P Saturday, 1 p.m.
TV • Altitude