Zemek: Andersen - "Always an Aggie" Really?

Posted Dec 19, 2012

Zemek: Didn't Gary Andersen JUST profess his loyalty to Utah State?

By Matt Zemek
E-mail Matt Zemek

Last week, the head football coach at Utah State University was unambiguous in his desire to remain in Logan, Utah.

" Opportunities are wonderful. It was very humbling the last three or four weeks to go through that process and be involved in jobs. You learn a lot, but you also learn a lot about yourself and where you want to be. And you sit back and take a deep breath and know who you want to be able to be around. I love the kids I get to coach here. … The kids I have in the program, it just was not time. I look them in the eye and I need to be where I'm at… Once an Aggie, always an Aggie. And I've learned that. I walked in here and I wasn't an Aggie. To everyone, I was a Ute. For me, once an Aggie, always an Aggie is something I take a lot of pride in."

That was Gary Andersen speaking to Brian Murphy of The Idaho Statesman while Utah State stayed in Boise to prepare for the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl against Toledo. Andersen, two weeks after the end of the regular season and with the Wisconsin job open, did not say that he was mulling over his options or thinking about his next step. He didn't say "you never know" or "we'll see where the road leads" or something of that nature. He didn't say "I'll keep an open mind" or "If an opportunity arises, I will naturally want to see what might emerge.

Gary Andersen said that he would be at Utah State. Moreover, Andersen said that he needed to be at Utah State, that it was a point of pride to remain in Logan. Andersen said that he looked his players in the eye and came away convinced that there was a deeper and more important purpose for him at Utah State.

Let's be clear about this: There's nothing wrong in and of itself with a man looking for – and finding – a new job, especially when a college football coach has a chance to go from the Mountain West (where Utah State will be in 2013) to the University of Wisconsin, a school that's about to make its third straight Rose Bowl appearance. There's nothing wrong in and of itself with trying to find a greater challenge at a brand-name school in the Big Ten spotlight.

There IS something wrong, however, when a man takes such great care to proclaim loyalty to an employer and a large community; to emphasize that said loyalty is a matter of personal honor; and to tell the world about the importance of the bond between himself and his players… only to bail on everyone just a few days later.

In terms of football merits, Wisconsin has probably gained a really good coach. Yet, it just doesn't seem right or appropriate to hail this hire. No, Wisconsin didn't do anything wrong here; Gary Andersen, however, told the kinds of blatant lies that insult the intelligence of fans and leave lasting wounds in the community that's left behind. The people of Logan, Utah, and the football players in the Utah State program deserved a lot better than what Gary Andersen did to them late Tuesday night.

The departure itself is not the problem. The forceful and pointed insistence on the need to stay at Utah State, just days before his departure, is what makes Gary Andersen a Nick Saban-like, Bobby Petrino-grade liar. Like Saban and Petrino, Andersen might very well win at his high-profile coaching stop.

That won't make him a better man, and it sure won't validate any of the things he might tell his Wisconsin players about character, trust, integrity, and like virtues… virtues that Andersen obviously doesn't wish to exhibit in his professional life.