This may go down as the worst season of Aggie football ever. There is no mincing words about it or trying to pretend otherwise. 2020 has not been kind to this team in terms of wins and losses, and the player and coach attrition looks like it may even get worse.
After a meeting this past week between university leadership and the team, the players have opted out of their final game of the 2020 campaign against Colorado State. This happened due to alleged negative remarks from university president Noelle Cockett made against interim head coach Franke Maile.
Details are light on what occurred in the meeting. The players put out a statement and the university put out a statement. Productive dialogue between the two is hopefully fruitful, yet this is nonetheless another ugly blackeye on an already dismal season.
“I am devastated that my comments were interpreted as bias against anyone’s religious background,” USU President Noelle Cockett in a statement.
— Utah State University (@USUAggies) December 12, 2020
Maile will not get the job and Blake Anderson will. Quite frankly, this is what USU needs, even if it’s not the splashiest or sexiest hire. For what it lacks in hype, it easily makes up for in sense and stability. This team needs a culture reset and it’s a no-brainer to bring in a coach who has the proven chops to build and sustain a winning program.
“I am beyond excited and grateful for the opportunity to lead the Utah State football program,” said Anderson. “This is an unbelievable place with a great tradition and history of success, both on and off the field, that we look forward to building upon. I can’t wait to get started with the guys and I look forward to a packed Maverik Stadium next fall. GO AGGIES!!!”
Anderson has been coaching for the Arkansas State Red Wolves since 2014. In all but one of his seasons, he’s taken them to a bowl game, including two wins, and he’s won two conference championships with them as well. They’ve never won fewer than seven games save for the 2020 season under his watch, which on average is better than what the Aggies have done this decade.
He clearly gets his available talent to play up to their strengths in a region that is arguably even harder to recruit to than Logan, Utah. Against the backdrop of SEC country, that’s nothing to sneeze at or bemoan at all.
In a fitting bit of poetry, Anderson appears to be looking for a reset himself with Utah State. His wife passed away in 2019 due to an aggressive form of cancer. His resignation from Arkansas State appears to be more personal than it is professional. Taking on a fresh challenge in a new environment may not only help Anderson heal personally, it may help USU’s program heal as well with a fresh perspective from an outside voice. For whatever reason, the locker room has been divided this season from day one, so I applaud Athletic Director John Hartwell for this hire.
As Blake Anderson leaves Arkansas State, all I can think about is this quote he gave me back in August before the season. Wishing him the best of luck and hope he finds what he’s looking for.
— George Stoia III (@GeorgeStoia) December 10, 2020
There is a chance we may never know what was said in that meeting between Cockett and the players. It’s a hard situation made harder through the lack of publicly available details and the propensity for controversy, both founded and unfounded, to spread via social media platforms. All we can do at this point is try and heal and better understand each other’s concerns moving forward.
It’s been hard to be an Aggie in 2020. We’ve gone from one embarrassing situation to another and nobody likes to lose games in blowout fashion. Utah State has lost much and Blake Anderson has also lost much in the last year. I feel this is a golden opportunity for both players and the incoming coaching staff to start afresh, establish trust, and build each other up into something special.
I want to believe that we will win. I do believe Blake Anderson can get us there. And I know that better days are ahead for Aggie nation.
Welcome, Coach Anderson. We are happy to have you.