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Utah State has been steppingstone for many quality coaches. Will the pattern continue?

A bevy fine coaches have passed through Logan en route to bigger and better things. Will new Aggies coach Blake Anderson be the guy who sticks around?

New Utah State football coach Blake Anderson answers questions at a press conference at Maverik Stadium in Logan.
New Utah State head football coach Blake Anderson answers questions at a press conference on Dec. 14, 2020, at Maverik Stadium in Logan.
Jeff Hunter

Dear Coach Blake Anderson:

Welcome to Logan and good luck with the new head coaching gig at Utah State. Hope you’ve had a chance to lay out on the Quad, sample Aggie Ice Cream, swim at First Dam, get kissed on the A, and walk the creaky old wooden floors of Old Main while inhaling its musty (yet oddly pleasurable) odor.

You’re the latest in a long line of USU head coaches to tee it up for the Aggies, but only the second named Andersen, except with an “o.” Sheesh, hope you last longer than the last guy. No offense (which at times is the problem), but you’re probably not going to be here long. You are USU’s 16th head coach since 1959.

Maybe you should rent.

On the other hand, during that same period, BYU had six coaches (four in the last 49 years) while Utah has had 10 (three in the last 30 years). So, it is possible you could see your kids attend one high school.

A lot of coaches flop and get shown the door, but nine of USU’s last 16 coaches chose to use the job as a steppingstone to bigger paydays at bigger places. Almost the moment they have a little success, they’re gone. It’s as if they’re fleeing the scene of a crime. It’s as if the Aggies are running a finishing school or a farm club for head coaches.

John Ralston was head coach for four years at USU and produced a 31-11-1 record before leaving in 1962 to coach at Stanford, where he took two teams to the Rose Bowl.

Tony Knap lasted four years and had a 25-14-1 record, but following his only losing season he resigned and coached in the Canadian Football League for a time before becoming a head coach at Boise State and Nevada-Las Vegas. He was a winning coach everywhere he went, finishing his career with a 143-53-4 record.

Too bad Ralston and Knap didn’t remain at USU.

Chuck Mills lasted six years as head coach at USU and had a record of 38-23-1. He left Logan to coach Wake Forest and later Southern Oregon and never enjoyed much success again. His career record: 132-133-5. He should’ve stuck with the Aggies.

Phil Krueger, a former USC assistant under legendary John McKay, lasted all of three seasons as USU’s head coach, winning 21 of 33 games, but when McKay became head coach of the new Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Krueger joined him again. USU vs. the NFL — hmmm, tough call.

Bruce Snyder didn’t even have a winning record (37-38-2) in seven seasons as USU’s head coach from 1976 to 1982, but managed to secure an assistant’s job with the Los Angeles Rams and later was a successful head coach at both Cal and Arizona State, where he was a two-time Pac-10 Coach of the Year.

Charlie Weatherbie stayed all of three years as USU’s head coach and had a losing record (15-19), yet somehow landed the head coaching position at Navy, where he was 30-45 in seven seasons. Then he moved on to Louisiana-Monroe, where he was 31-51 in seven seasons.

John L. Smith held the USU job for three seasons and had a won-lost record of 16-18, which naturally earned him the head coaching job at Louisville, where he was 41-21. That led to the head coaching job at Michigan State and later Arkansas, resulting in losing records at both stops.

In the fourth season of his first run as USU’s head coach, Gary Andersen produced a sterling 11-2 season, which landed him the head coaching job at Wisconsin, where he was 19-7 in two seasons. He suddenly and inexplicably left the prestigious Wisconsin program to coach downtrodden Oregon State, where things didn’t go so well and he quit.

Andersen’s assistant, Matt Wells, took over and produced a record of 44-34 in six seasons at USU, which landed him a fat contract with Texas Tech, where he is 8-14 in two seasons.

This led to the return of Andersen for an encore with USU before athletic director John Hartwell fired him three games into his second season, replacing him with interim head coach Frank Maile.

Which brings us to Anderson, with an “o,” moving from Arkansas State (51-37) to his second head-coaching job. He has arrived with renewed optimism. Time will tell how long he remains.