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Utah State, head football coach Blake Anderson agree to contract extension

Utah State head coach Blake Anderson runs onto the field with his players before an NCAA college football game against Washington State.
Utah State head coach Blake Anderson runs onto the field with his players before an NCAA college football game against Washington State, Saturday, Sept. 4, 2021, in Pullman, Wash. (AP Photo/Young Kwak)
AP

Utah State head football coach Blake Anderson is primed to stay in Logan for the foreseeable future.

On Friday morning, the school announced that it had verbally agreed on a two-year contract extension with Anderson. Add it to his existing deal, and Anderson will remain with the Aggies through the 2027 season should he stay through the life of the contract.

The extension comes on the heels of a campaign that saw Utah State go from a 1-5 record in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season to an 11-3 mark in 2021 (tying the program record for wins in a season), the program’s first Mountain West Conference title and a win over Oregon State in the LA Bowl.

“In just one year at the helm, Blake Anderson has transformed a one-win team into a Mountain West Championship team,” Utah State athletic director John Hartwell said in a statement.

The extension also comes following some controversy off the field. The week of the bowl game, a recording surfaced of Anderson telling his players during an August team meeting that it “has never been more glamorized to be a victim” of sexual assault.

The recording was part of a lawsuit filed “on behalf of a former USU student who says the school mishandled her rape case. She reported to the school that she was raped by a football player in 2019,” according to the Deseret News.

As part of the lawsuit, there was also a recording of the university’s police chief saying Latter-day Saint women may falsely report rape.

The police chief resigned, and Anderson apologized, saying, “I regret the words I used, and I apologize to anyone who has bravely come forward with allegations of wrongdoing.

“We have to do everything we can to encourage and protect anybody who has been the victim of a wrong, or whose personal rights have been violated. Anyone who knows me knows how strongly I feel about this. Giving victims a safe platform to address wrongs they’ve suffered is always the right thing to do, and something I’ll always stand for.”

Anderson, 52, arrived in Logan in December 2020 with both he and Utah State seeking a fresh start.

For him, he was looking to leave Arkansas State, where he had been since 2014. He had success on the field, but his wife, Wendy, had died of cancer in 2019 and he has repeatedly said that remaining where so many memories had been made was challenging.

The Aggies, meanwhile, were coming off a difficult season both on and off the field.

Quarterback Jason Shelley was dismissed from the team midseason, head coach Gary Andersen was fired and players refused to play in the final game of the campaign over alleged “ongoing inequality” and comments made by university president Noelle Cockett about interim head coach Frank Maile’s “religious and cultural background.”

Said Hartwell of Anderson in Friday’s announcement: “The positive and team-centered culture he and his staff have created and fostered permeates throughout Aggie Nation. ... Blake’s character, integrity and passion for the academic, personal and athletic growth of our student-athletes have fueled the success of this team. Under coach Anderson’s leadership, the future of Aggie football is very bright.”

Cockett said in a statement, “Under head coach Blake Anderson, this year’s football team captured the hearts of all of Aggie nation and we are fortunate to have him at the helm of our program.”