The Enduring Influence of Coach Andersen
There is perhaps no one that has ever been more influential to the sport of football in the state of Utah, and very few that have been more influential to even the entire western United States, than Gary Andersen.
Andersen was born in 1964 in Salt Lake City. He attended Cottonwood High School in Murray, Utah, and played his entire high school career there, lettering twice. Andersen began college in southeast Idaho and after two years playing for Rick’s College, he returned to his home state to play for the state of Utah’s flagship school, the University of Utah, again lettering twice.
He graduated in 1986 with a degree in political science and began his coaching career. Andersen made two stops in Utah’s neighbor to the north, coaching at Rick’s College and Idaho State, before once again returning to the greater Salt Lake area, this time as a high school coach. He was the head coach for the Park City High School team for one year, then once again left Utah, this time for the neighbor to the south. He spent two seasons at Northern Arizona, then returned to Utah for what would be his longest, and most successful, run in the state.
From 1997-2000 he was involved in various roles at Utah, then when Ron McBride was fired, he took a head coaching job at Southern Utah for just one season. He came back to Utah when Urban Meyer hired him as a defensive line coach in 2004. After a season, he took on additional roles as assistant head coach and defensive coordinator, while maintaining his duties as the defensive line coach, and in 2008 he was a finalist for the Broyles award. During his four seasons as defensive coordinator, the Utes went 37-14, improving their record each year. In that time, the Utah defense gave up 21 points or fewer 28 times and 14 points or fewer 19 times with two shutouts, including the 2006 shutout at Utah State.
Following his successful 2008 season at Utah, Andersen was named head coach of Utah State. When he successfully revitalized the Aggies in just four seasons, he caught the attention of Cal, Colorado, and Kentucky, but turned down those offers in favor of a job at Wisconsin. After two seasons there, he left to take a head coaching job at Oregon State where he would coach from 2015 until he again stepped away, midway through the 2017 season. The next season he was back at Utah, but when Utah State had a vacancy at the head coach position, he was called back. This time he was only with the Aggies for a season and a half until he and the university split up. Now, he works at Weber State as an analyst.
The Complex Legacy of Gary Andersen: The Iliad and Odyssey of Utah State Football