On Sunday afternoon, Gary Andersen traveled from Logan to Salt Lake City, visited a tattoo parlor and fulfilled a bet made with his team during the preseason.
The Utah State football coach, just days before the Aggies will visit Boise to face Ohio in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, will garner a little more security at USU.
Andersen, who has led Utah State to its first bowl appearance since 1997, is very close to signing a contract extension, which will keep him in Logan until 2017 and give him a raise, The Salt Lake Tribune has learned. Andersen and Athletics Director Scott Barnes have been working toward an extension for a few weeks. The deal could be signed as early as Monday, said a source with knowledge of the talks.
To do so, Andersen turned down several inquiries for head coaching jobs elsewhere, as his 7-5 regular-season record has garnered him interest from other schools, the most notable of them being Colorado State.
Details of the contract are still being finalized. But Andersen is expected to receive a base salary of about $415,000 per season, plus incentives. Andersen was paid about $375,000 this season, but with USU having its best season since 1993, he made more with several incentives that he met, including teamwide academic performance.
With his family in Logan, his son Keegan a redshirt freshman tight end, and two more sons playing for Logan High, Andersen has made Cache Valley home. He has long said that he wants to stay at Utah State for a long period, despite more and more interest from other schools that is sure to come if the Aggies maintain their standout play next year and in 2013.
"When I first came to Utah State, all football was looked at was a way to pass the time until basketball season," USU senior linebacker Bobby Wagner said. "Coach Andersen has changed all of that. He came in and made an impact in the community. Football has come a long way. Coach Andersen has changed the entire outlook of the program. Now, when we play our spring game, the stands fill up like it's a real game. People get excited about football now, and that's because of coach Andersen."
Andersen went 4-8 in each of his first two years, showing improvement and staying competitive in big games, but not quite climbing the mountain. Still, there were milestones. In 2010, Utah State defeated BYU at Romney Stadium with a high school recruit named Chuckie Keeton in the stands. Impressed, the quarterback committed to USU the next day and kept that commitment as Big 12 schools down south turned up the recruiting heat on the Houston native leading up to signing day.
Keeton became one of the better freshmen in the country this season.
Andersen, after last season, signed an extension through 2016. Still, he's faced budget concerns this year, and his assistants are among the lowest paid in the Western Athletic Conference. Barnes told The Tribune earlier this season that money raised from a competitive football fund would be used to pay Andersen and his assistants salaries that are more in line with what the rest of the coaches in the conference are being paid.
That, his family, and long-term security are apparently enough to keep Andersen in Logan.
On Sunday afternoon, Andersen went through with a bet. On the back of his shoulder, Andersen now has a tattoo of the Utah State logo, along with a bowl message. He told his players before the season if the Aggies went bowling, this would be the result.
Andersen told The Tribune on Sunday that a man named Buzz was his artist.
"I have to keep my promise to the kids," Andersen said. "It's a little weird having a tattoo, but this is well worth it. I love it."
• Went 4-8 in each of his first two years as Utah State head coach, then turned it around with a 7-5 record this season and a second-place finish in the WAC.
• In the preseason, he told players he'd get a tattoo of the Utah State logo if the Aggies made a bowl game. On Sunday, the coach made good on his promise and now has a permanent reminder on the back of his shoulder.