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Gary Andersen out as Utah State’s head football coach

Utah State coach Gary Andersen watches the team during the first half of an NCAA college football game against San Diego State, Saturday, Oct. 31, 2020, in Logan, Utah.
Eli Lucero/The Herald Journal via AP, Pool

Gary Andersen’s second stint as Utah State’s football coach is over.

After USA Today’s Dan Wolken first reported Saturday morning that the school is parting ways with Andersen, the school confirmed the news in the afternoon.

The Aggies are off to an 0-3 start to the 2020 season, including a 34-9 loss to Nevada on Thursday, and have lost their first three games by an average of 28.3 points.

Frank Maile, the team’s assistant head coach and co-defensive coordinator who served as the Aggies’ interim head coach in the 2018 New Mexico Bowl, will serve as the team’s interim coach through the remainder of the season.

“After a thorough analysis on the current state of our football team, we believe a change at head coach is in the best interest of our program moving forward,” USU athletic director John Hartwell said in a statement. “The continued success and development of Aggie football is a priority and we want to make sure we are regular contenders for the Mountain West Championship.

“We will start an immediate national search to find the best candidate to lead Utah State football going forward.”

Utah State went 7-6 under Andersen last season, when he returned for a second stint as the Aggies’ coach. He led the team from 2009-12, highlighted by an 11-2 season in 2012 when Utah State finished the season ranked in the top 20 in both national polls.

Andersen replaced Matt Wells, Andersen’s predecessor, after Wells accepted the head coaching position at Texas Tech following the 2018 season. That year, Utah State went 11-2 with now Green Bay Packer Jordan Love at quarterback.

“When (the) school was looking to replace Matt Wells, search was shutdown because boosters clamored to bring Andersen back,” Stadium’s Brett McMurphy wrote on Twitter. “Now 16 games later, he’s out.”

Andersen had a 33-33 record as the Aggies’ coach, including 26-24 during his first stint. In 2012, Utah State finished with a school-record number of wins (11) and also set program records for points scored (454), total offense (6,108 yards) and yards per game (469.8), while ranking seventh nationally by allowing just 15.4 points per game.

He led them to back-to-back winning seasons in 2011 (7-6) and 2012, the first time that had happened for the program since 1979-80.

In his second go-round as coach, though, Andersen found tougher sledding. USU finished third in the Mountain West’s Mountain Division with a 6-2 league mark in 2019, but this season, the Aggies came slow out of the gates with a 42-13 loss to Boise State, followed by a 38-7 setback in their home opener against San Diego State, prior to the third straight blowout loss, to Nevada.

“On behalf of Utah State athletics, I want to express my appreciation to Gary Andersen for all he has done for our football program. We wish him, Stacey and their family all the best going forward, and they will always be part of our Aggie family,” Hartwell said.

Andersen, who grew up in Salt Lake City and played at the University of Utah, left the Aggies following the 2012 season to become the head coach at Wisconsin. He stayed with the Badgers program for two years and led them to a 19-7 record and the 2014 Big Ten Championship Game.

Within days of the title game, he took over the vacant head coaching position at Oregon State. Andersen went 7-23 as the Beavers’ coach before leaving midway through his third season, with a reported $12.4 million remaining on his contract, according to ESPN.

Prior to becoming the Aggies’ head coach for a second time, Andersen spent the 2018 season at Utah as an associate head coach and defensive line coach. He was an assistant with the Utes for more than a decade before taking over the Utah State head coaching job the first time in 2009.

Several players took to social media following the reports Saturday morning. Among them, wide receiver Deven Thompkins wrote, “Forever love you coach A,” transfer quarterback Jason Shelley shared a broken heart emoji and senior linebacker Kevin Meitzenheimer posted a pair of question marks on Twitter.