The Complex Legacy of Gary Andersen: The Most Unique Man in College Football

The Complex Legacy of Gary Andersen: The Most Unique Man in College Football

Mountain West Football

The Complex Legacy of Gary Andersen: The Most Unique Man in College Football


The Most Unique Man in College Football

Mark Zuckerberg’s motto of “move fast and break things” might not be the best guide for running the world’s leading social media platform, Facebook officially dropped the slogan in 2014, but it’s the perfect blueprint for a college coach looking to avoid being forgotten. Gary Andersen proved that. The phrase works, but the converse could just as easily be true. “Move fast and fix things” is an equally effective way to be remembered. Andersen proved that too.

Andersen’s most monumental acts of breaking and fixing came at Utah State. When he first arrived, he mended a program sorely in need of maintenance. Once the program was running smoothly, he left, only to return a few years later. When he came back, the program was in excellent shape, having been expertly repaired by Andersen before. He then proceeded to nearly destroy his own work.

What he did at Wisconsin and Oregon State might not be considered breaking or fixing, although he certainly saw high highs and low lows throughout his career away from the Aggies. A slogan from a different company might better describe Andersen in his years leading the Badgers and the Beavers, and his entire career at large. Apple’s “think different,” or in Andersen’s case, “be different” is a blunt and unceremonious, yet accurate, description of Andersen’s professional identity. Being different, like moving fast and breaking or fixing things, is a surefire way to be remembered.

Simply, it is just too easy to forget college coaches. To be remembered, a coach really has to do something out of the ordinary.

A personification of this is Tim Duryea, who was the head coach of Utah State basketball from 2015-2018. Despite coaching Jalen Moore and Sam Merrill, two Aggie legends and household names in Cache Valley, Duryea is quickly fading from memory.

Under Duryea, the Aggies weren’t that good. They were new to the Mountain West, an incredibly difficult basketball conference, and struggled to adjust quickly. Fortunately for Duryrea, though, the Aggies weren’t broken.

The Aggies still had a strong brand and talented recruits, such as Moore and Merrill, kept the program afloat. Coached by Duryea, the Aggies coasted along and scored almost identical records three years straight. Duryea was given a shot to live up to the high expectations left in place by Morrill but came up short.

The program wasn’t destroyed under Duryea, but it also wasn’t competitive. There was nothing notable about his time as head coach. He is in the majority in that regard. The coaches that are household names, Tom Izzo, Nick Saban, Kirby Smart, Jay Wright, and so on are well-known not for having undistinguished and inconspicuous careers, but for extraordinary and uncommon achievements.

Duryea is possibly the epitome of forgettable mediocrity, and as such, will not receive the harshest punishment history has to offer. By disappearing from public memory, Dureya avoids a fate much worse, being remembered. It sounds harsh, but it can play in the favor of some coaches. Bad coaches have to be really bad to endure history.

The Complex Legacy of Gary Andersen: The Iliad and Odyssey of Utah State Football


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