Utah State names assistant Frank Maile as interim head football coach as search for permanent replacement moves forward

Al Hartmann | The Salt Lake Tribune Utah State University introduced John Hartwell as its new Vice President and Director of Athletics at the Wayne Estes Center Wednesday June 3 in Logan. He will begin his duties in mid-July.

Utah State assistant Frank Maile has been named the Aggies' interim head football coach after the departure of Matt Wells, USU athletic director John Hartwell said Friday.

Maile, the Aggies' assistant head coach under Wells, will be in charge through the upcoming bowl game — which will be announced Sunday — and will also be “the bridge from a recruiting standpoint,” Hartwell told reporters during a conference call.

Wells, who accepted a job with Texas Tech and is taking coordinators David Yost and Keith Patterson with him, will be “heavily involved” with practice and game planning for the bowl game, Hartwell said. Though he won’t coach the bowl game, the USU AD said Wells has requested to be on the sidelines and for his family to be in the stands at the game.

“I wouldn’t have it any other way,” Hartwell told Wells.

Hartwell said the team is still working through the involvement of Yost and Patterson in bowl game preparations, but the plan is to have them involved “as much as possible.”

Strength and conditioning coach Dave Scholz will also depart from USU and join Wells, Hartwell said.

After the bowl game, Hartwell said, Wells intends to take “everybody on the [offensive] side of the ball for sure” with him to Texas Tech. He also wants opportunities for most of the defensive coaches and some of the quality-control staff.

Hartwell said the university has hired an outside search firm to help fill the coaching vacancy. It is the same firm the school used when it found its basketball coach, Craig Smith. He hopes to have a new head coach in place sometime within the next 10 days to two weeks at the latest, if not before.

Ryan Talbot | Utah State Athletics Utah State co-defensive coordinator Frank Maile.

Wells met with the team Thursday at around 7 p.m. to inform it of his resignation, said Hartwell, who added that the former coach spent time with each player and the scene was emotional. After Wells left, Hartwell spent about 20 minutes with the team, told them Maile would be the interim coach and offered support.

Wells’ departure unfolded over a matter of days. Hartwell said Texas Tech athletic director Kirby Hocutt called him Tuesday requesting to meet with Wells. By the next day, Hartwell concluded that Wells might leave.

“Obviously knowing at point that it had gone far enough to where he’d call me and say, ‘We want to visit,’ I knew it was down the road a little ways,” Hartwell said.

Hartwell put together a salary package three weeks ago that included “significant raises” for Wells and his assistants, he said. Wells and the coordinators would have received more than a 20 percent raise, and the position coaches would have also received a “significant bump” in salary.

“We knew [Wells leaving] was in the realm of possibility,” Hartwell said. “We wanted to be proactive."

The total amount in raises was about a half-million dollars, he added.

“We knew it would be significant as it relates to within the Mountain West conference,” Hartwell said. “But knowing in the back of our mind that if one these Power 5 opportunities came available, we were not going to be able to get in a bidding war dollar for dollar.”

Hartwell did not express preference in a coach with ties to Utah, or someone with previous head coaching or coordination experience to replace Wells. But he did say he would like an individual who understands the Utah’s culture, citing the state’s large pool of Polynesian athletes and players who leave and return from missions for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“That will continue to be a vital cog in the success of Utah State football,” Hartwell said.