When Gary Andersen first arrived in Logan exactly 10 years ago, the engaging, player-first defensive mind provided a jolt of infusion into the Cache Valley, one that immediately captivated those who bled Aggie blue. Andersen made Utah State believe again. After 14 consecutive losing seasons that spanned throughout various conferences, the Aggies found that someone to change just about everything.
They found it in Andersen, who from 2009 to 2012, altered the future of Utah State football for the next decade. In 2011, he led the Aggies to their first winning campaign since 1996. That was the beginning of a new look in Logan.
And 10 years after being introduced in his first head coaching job, Andersen appears set up for a sequel.
The Salt Lake Tribune has learned that the Utah associate head coach and defensive line assistant, barring some last-minute change of heart, will return to lead the Aggies once again. One source, who asked to remain anonymous because of his relationship with Andersen, indicated that it’s “a done deal,” and an official announcement could come as soon as Sunday.
According to several national reports Friday night, Utah State zeroed in on the 54-year-old after a week-long coaching search. Bruce Feldman of The Athletic reported Friday that pressure from USU boosters has tilted back to Andersen, prompting an end to the national search. FootballScoop.com was the first to report that USU was leaning toward Andersen, a report that came on December 2.
If and when it becomes official, Andersen will replace the man who replaced him in Logan, Matt Wells, who recently took the Texas Tech head coaching job after helping the Aggies to a 10-2 season.
USU athletic director John Hartwell vowed last week that the search would be a national one, adding it wouldn’t take longer than two weeks. Turns out, Hartwell won’t have to go that far. Andersen, who is in his 12th season coaching at his alma mater, Utah, returned to Salt Lake City in January after abruptly stepping away from head coaching duties at Oregon State. In two and a half years in Corvallis, Ore., Andersen went 7-23.
The move back to Salt Lake City was re-energizing, Andersen said earlier this year, helping the former Utah defensive coordinator get back to the basics of coaching. “A lot less distractions,” he said during spring ball. During his awkward split with the Beavers, Andersen walked away from $12 million left on his deal. He left Logan after the 2012 season, when the Aggies went 11-2 and won their first bowl game since 1993. Wisconsin came calling after seeing Andersen turn what was once a perennial losing program into one on the steady rise. He went 19-7 in two years in Madison.
Andersen’s ability to recruit Utah helped in the turnaround at USU. He established a more thorough pipeline of Polynesian players toward Logan and saw players such as Bobby Wagner, Robert Turbin, Zach Vigil and Chuckie Keeton soar to national stardom. USU went 26-24 in four seasons under Andersen. The foundation Andersen established at USU was built upon further by Wells, Andersen’s former offensive coordinator, who took the Aggies to four bowl games in the next five seasons.
After Andersen and his family left Corvallis, they returned to Utah. More specifically, they returned to Logan, where they still own a home. During his brief hiatus from coaching, he’d occasionally pop up at Utah State practices, just to check things out. Now the Andersens are set to move north once more, back to the place that carved out quite a comfortable spot inside the heart of Gary Andersen.